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Positive response to digital exams, despite teething problems

Positive response to digital exams, despite teething problems

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

MAASTRICHT. A loud “YESSS!!!!” sounds at the main entrance of the MECC on Tuesday morning. Second-year students of International Business Thom Metselaar and Tim Schmid have passed their computer exam ‘Management of Organizations’. They have just pressed Enter for the last time, but the answers are already online.

The first digital exams are taking place in the large Westhal of the MECC this week. “A total of 30 thousand digital exams will take place this year,” says Tineke de Beaumont, support manager for digital testing. “We may receive more requests, so the number could go up.” This Tuesday, five to six hundred students are doing their exams on the computer. De Beaumont: “In general, everything is the same as with the paper exams: students enrol for the exams in the same way and there is a fixed place for each person; the only difference is that they do the exam on the Chromebooks. They log into their student account and are immediately taken to the exam environment.”

This has various advantages, De Beaumont continues. “There are various ways to test whether the student has understood the subject matter, for example with videos. In addition, it is easier for lecturers to check the exams; everything is sorted out by the programme and they no longer need to decipher handwriting. Students can see their answers in the system and check whether they got it right. Also, most students type more easily than they write.”

But is that the case? Many internationals actually don't work with a QUERTY, but with an AZERTY or QWERTZ keyboard. The Belgian Priscille Mutombo is used to using an AZERTY keyboard to type on. “I had a multiple choice exam today, so I didn't need to type much, but with open questions it could be a major problem. In addition it was not easy to return to a previous question. To go from question 35 to question 4, you had to click ‘Back’ 31 times in a row.” The latter not correct, says De Beaumont. “Students can see an overview of all their questions in two ways. I assume this student didn't see that.”

“The computer exams actually went quite well; I had expected worse,” says Fabian Dieterich, second-year student of IB. “I prefer to write, because I can highlight the words in the question with a marker and cross out incorrect answers. If they could add those options, I wouldn't mind at all.” Metselaar missed the possibility to highlight too. “I also think that with such a big laptop on the desk, there is too little room to work when I have to make many calculations.”

Despite these teething problems, the students were unanimous: “It was better than expected.” “Relaxed even,” says Metselaar. “With exams on paper, you sit bent forward over your paper the whole time; I sat straight up and I even saw people leaning backwards.”

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