The team from the University of Groningen share their experience how to deliver a successful online assessment programme

With 30,000 students, four Bachelors Degree programmes and 146 Masters Degrees, the University of Groningen has a strong desire to streamline its examinations process with the aim of delivering over 80% of assessments in digital mode by 2020.

Beginning in the 2012-13 academic year, the university created a comprehensive, cross-departmental team to help realise the school’s plans. Key members of the team are:

  • Education and assessment specialists, who offer support for lecturers, including managing the exam development process, preparing and testing the language-of-choice exams and the exam workstations in advance;
  • Digital learning environment experts, who are always present in the room during the exams to offer live tech support, if needed;
  • Developers, IT hardware, network and server staff, faculty schedulers and Blackboard support;

This Digital Exams team worked on several aspects. Leveraging the flexibility of the Blackboard platform, they created an assessment folder, which contains and protects all assessment items, student views, print views of the exams and submissions, and the grading interface. They also developed a customised essay assignments section to allow for open-ended questions, and they customised the login process to create an even more secure exam environment that prevents access to the course materials. Furthermore, they built an exam management portal to help during the exam development process.

In addition to defining the overall digital exam process and capabilities, the team went the extra mile to create bespoke facilities that could help students and examiners during the assessments. For example, they commissioned purpose-built multifunctional tables that remain closed for paper exams (so students can’t hide behind the screens), and are opened for the digital assessment, with fixed PCs that have privacy screens, eliminating cheating and distractions.

University of Groningen has seen numerous benefits of digital examinations, such as eliminating the need to “decipher” poor handwriting, being able to include multimedia as part of the test material or implementing advanced options like adaptive release for additional questions. The use of digital assessments also helps reduce the teacher workload: multiple-choice questions are automatically graded while open questions can be graded through the VLE or on paper. And the results are stored in the Grade Centre of the exam course, ready for further processing.

In future, the team hope to enhance digital exams even further by incorporating Excel, SPSS and other operating systems, fine-tuning the Internet restrictions, creating more exam locations, and developing an environment that allows for archive and analyses functionality.

Click here to see The Universities of Groningen’s presentation

“Digital Examinations: How running examinations up to 15 hours a day, 6 days per week can save academics 6,600 academic marking hours” was one of the many success stories presented at the Teaching and Learning Conference EMEA 2016

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