This week I’m full of anxiety again as I stare down the barrel of a loaded gun. This deadly weapon is more commonly called exam season. To make things extra deadly it seems that, in response to cheating in online exams, academics have taken the chance to make exams even harder! In ways I never could have dreamed of, too: delightful.
On Halloween, I joined two colleagues for a few socially distanced beers and we discussed this issue. We talked mainly about the fact that many exams were changing from multiple choice to essay based questions, or some other switch. This is fine, and honestly it makes sense that lecturers are thinking about the best way to ask exam questions in an online format.
One colleague even told a spooky story about their whole class getting dozens of urgent e-mails from lecturers during an exam. It didn’t work as it was supposed to and had to be ‘reset’ a few times. With all of the concerns about the quality of online exams, maybe a trial run before the exam gets sent out might be a good idea.
Do the questions you know and come back to the ones you’re unsure of. Now even that’s been taken away
But the real issue is cheating and what’s being done about it. It’s no secret that some people will always cheat and often do during ‘in-person’ exams too. Now cheaters have graduated from scraps of paper and arms covered in tiny notes to talking online using WhatsApp. It’s so serious that some entire classes have even seen their results cancelled after taking the exam over fears of cheating.
I agree that something needs to be done, but one practice to stamp out cheating is just grotesque. Now, some exams will only show students one question at a time, with no chance to go back after answering. This is a disgusting system. We were all taught the same basic strategy for exams. Do the questions you know, and come back to the ones you’re unsure of. Now even that’s been taken away.
So now I sit in my room at my laptop to prepare for exams just as I have with lectures. Apparently, I can’t be sure if my exam will work, but I can be sure it will be harder. It seems this system has had a trial run though and it works well enough that most departments are rolling it out in at least a few exams.
It’s nice to see the testing can work sometimes.