While preparing the examination, appropriate security measures were incorporated to guarantee a high level of quality. The examination was supervised for the internal students and self supervised for the external students. The examination was conducted to students spread all over Australia, at a specific time and for a specific duration.
The authors, while preparing the electronic medium based examination, considered necessary allowances for standard problems like network delays, modem connection, login procedures, etc. However, due to the relative newness of the electronic based examination trialed in the department, the authors anticipate the model to undergo refinements. As this type of examination has far reaching goals, the authors want to present their work for feedback and evaluation.
The process of developing electronic media based material lead to the thinking of producing a net based examination. The idea was strengthened by the fact that there are considerable delays in exam script handling with respect to external mode students of the Department.
The researchers established certain guidelines for such an examination so that the process can be successful. The objectives of this delivery mode can generally be categorised in to:
An important point that needs to be noted is that the examination is dependent on factors like computing resources, network access and other security procedures. The researchers were motivated further by the fact the cost associated with printing, posting and receiving exam papers can completely be eliminated using this mechanism. Moreover, the marking guidelines can be set to a higher level of accuracy so that human interpretation and error can be minimised to a certain extent.
The process involved certain human intervention in marking. However, there is abundant scope to generate a completely automated exam, that can include conducting the exam on the Internet, marking and result generation. The complete automation is yet to be trialed.
The availability of the electronic examination papers in these examinations were controlled in two ways. One, by making the examination paper available at a specific time to the internal students electronically on the Edith Cowan University's LAN. Note, this network is only accessible from inside the university premises and is not available for the external students. Two, making the examination paper available on the Internet for external students for a specific duration.
For the internal students there were no further need to control the access to the examination paper as the examination was supervised and limited to two hours duration. The same did not apply to the external students as their examination was self supervised. The access to the Internet page was controlled with two main measures. The first measure utilised the normal Username and Password combination to verify users identity. In this case the username was selected to be students ID number and the password was a combination of student first and second name. The second measure to control the access related to the availability of the examination paper on the Internet.
For practical reasons it would have been unreasonable to make the examination paper available for only the specified examination period of time. In this case it was made available for nine hours duration with 2 hours of availability for each student. The main reason for this arrangement was the limited number of modem lines available in the university's modem pool. These modems needed to be shared with the other users in the first in first served basis. Knowing this, it was actually recommended to use alternative Internet provider if possible to gain access to the examination paper.
The above mentioned arrangement to allow access to examination paper over long period of time created a new problem. How to restrict and supervise the time taken to answer the examination questions? In this instance, the students were let to know, that when they first login to the examination page by using their individual Username and Password indicates the start of the examination. This time is recorded by the Internet server. As the examination was two hours of duration the students were required to email their answers to a given email address on completion. It was made clear to the students that it is their responsibility to time their own examination. When the email is received, the time, clearly indicated in the message heading ensures that students have complied with the time limit of the duration of the examination.
To ensure that the internal students did not share their responses electronically, by utilising email, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or other methods, the use of IRC was banned and their emails were logged, that is, all emails sent from the examination rooms were recorded for later analysis. This arrangement was explained prior to the examination process.
The same arrangements were not made for the external students as they were self supervising their exam. It would have unfairly disadvantaged the external students if they would have to use any other computer facilities than the one they are familiar with for the examination purposes. The supervision and practical arrangements of electronic examination for external students are issues to be resolved.
Special arrangements were put in place to safeguard against accidental loss of examination responses due to possible problems associated with the email. First of all the students were instructed to keep a copy of their responses in their send folder. This was done in case the student accidentally send their response to a wrong email address. Secondly, email responses were routed through a special email server where a copy of all responses were kept before forwarded to individual tutors for marking the examination. This was to safeguard against accidental deletion by a tutor or a failure in email service. In case of external students a copy was also send to External Studies for their records. This was the only occasion when the examination responses were actually printed out.
Some problems were directly linked to the students' preparation of the examination process. Regardless of the training and clear instructions given prior to the examination, that all answers need to be submitted using the email system some students experienced difficulties. These students were allowed to submit their answers in a floppy disk.
A similar situation occurred with some external students when their computer system either crashed or the email server was not accessible. It is difficult to truly assess the actual nature of these problems experienced by external students.
In some cases students had not set up their electronic mail system properly and the examiners were unable to send their comments and examination marks back to the students electronically. In these cases the students had to contact their tutor to receive their marks.
The second major difference is imposed by the tools available to work with electronic documents, that is, the need to use a computer to view and add comments/marks to answer documents.
The marking was done manually by the unit coordinator. However, the electronic system can be refined in such a way that the marking process can be semi automated to incorporate certain elements of the examination to be marked as and when a student responds to the question.
|Please cite as: Vuori, T. and Gururajan, R. (1997). Tertiary examination conducted on the internet. In Pospisil, R. and Willcoxson, L. (Eds), Learning Through Teaching, p341-344. Proceedings of the 6th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Murdoch University, February 1997. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1997/vuori1.html|