Monday, December 14, 2020
Few of the ten preceding posts I have offered on teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic (links provided at the end of this post) have even mentioned assessment. Given that the semester's classes have ended almost everywhere, now seems like a good time to say a few words on that topic, focusing in on written final examinations. As with everything else in the COVID-19 era, the traditional written, timed final (f/k/a "in class") examination has received some serious scrutiny and reconsideration in 2020. The UT Law faculty shared ideas and opinions on the topic of online examinations in a number of faculty meetings and forums. Perhaps predictably, faculty members teaching in different parts of the curriculum (substantively and otherwise) had individualized views about how their own learning objectives could best be met in an online assessment environment.
After much discussion, UT Law ended up offering multiple options to instructors. For essay questions, we had the choice of using our proprietary portal's exam feature (with download/upload capabilities and full use of all computer functionality, including the Internet) or exam software. We had the choice of engaging monitoring or not. Multiple choice questions could be submitted electronically on the portal and hand-graded by the instructor or submitted electronically using exam software and machine-graded. Bonus: in the end, our Dean of Students offered us the opportunity to have our exams printed--an unexpected (and, in my case, welcomed) addition to the mix.
My Business Associations students took my two-hour written final exam twelve days ago. I chose a portal-based essay exam with machine-graded multiple choice questions. I had the exams printed out. I have not heard back yet from students on the exam process or anything else (for obvious reasons). But from my standpoint, the exam submission and transmission process seemed to work smoothly. It differed little, in the end, as a matter of process, from exams I have given in person in the past. I am so grateful to our academic deans (and the rest of the faculty), our Dean of Students, and the staff from our student records office for all they did to make this exam period safe, manageable, and (yes) possible.
Of course, until I finish grading and can talk to students about their part of the experience, this is about all I can say. Student views may be wildly different. I did learn (in the process of working through the exam details with them) that they are not fond of using our exam software for essay questions, since they cannot be looking at the question as they type their answer. In any event, I will look forward to sharing anything I hear in a later post.
What were your experiences with online written exams this semester? What are your preferences as to how they are best set up and managed--and why? I am interested in what others are doing in this regard and what they are learning from those experiences. Post comments or send me an email message if you have thoughts on any of this.
Links to prior posts on Teaching Through the Pandemic
(Note: Since I only began adding subtitles after the fourth post, I have added parenthetical topic information for the first four posts.)
Teaching Through the Pandemic - Part I (early distance education and Zoom tips)
Teaching Through the Pandemic - Part II (Zoom connectivity tips)
Teaching Through the Pandemic - Part III (questions about a greater movement to online education)
Teaching Through the Pandemic - Part IV (advanced Zoom tips)