As the first state university in Germany to do so, the University of Bayreuth already conducted online distance exams using the WISEflow software in the 2020 summer semester as part of a pilot project. In the process, 25 selected exams were offered online as a voluntary alternative to concurrent in-person exams. The results of the evaluation of this first online exam phase have now been published in time for the exam phase this winter semester. The evaluation shows that students greatly welcomed the option. The results of the evaluation will be incorporated into the current assessment and planning of in-person and online exams at the University of Bayreuth.
Back in the 2020 summer semester, when the extent of the pandemic was not yet foreseeable and the incidence figures were comparatively low, the University of Bayreuth launched an investigation into how well students will accept online exams. In the 2020 summer semester, 25 distance exams were conducted in economics using WISEflow software. Students always had the option of choosing whether they wished to take the online exam or the in-person exam, which was to take place at the same time and was of identical content. On average, the proportion of students who opted for the digital exam was 26.4%.
Overall satisfaction with the online exams in the project phase was high: 73.6% of respondents felt that they had “made a good decision by choosing online exams” and would (very) likely choose them again. Furthermore, 67.2% of participants agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “It is very likely that I would recommend online exams (instead of in-person exams) to other students”.
“Particularly against the backdrop of the current infection situation, it is gratifying that our students are taking up the option of online exams so well. We would also like to highlight the performance of the dedicated teaching staff who make this offering possible in the first place”, explains Prof. Dr. Friedrich Sommer, Dean of Studies Business & Economics. In the current winter semester, the number of online exams offered in economics has already doubled. The proportion of students who are opting for online exams is also increasing. Especially in exams with large numbers of participants, the proportion of online exam participants is currently close to 60%.
The evaluation of the pilot phase showed that health reasons and location-related aspects often figured prominently in the decision to choose online exams. However, the participants also saw advantages in this form of examination irrespective of the coronavirus. Emotional and cognitive advantages, such as improved concentration and less nervousness and test anxiety, were frequently mentioned.
The online examination software enables examinations to be taken regardless of location. This means that students in domestic quarantine, and students who would have to travel a long way to Bayreuth to take the exam can participate, but also students who are currently abroad and, in some cases, do not have the opportunity to take the exam on site. The online exam is conducted in a protected lockdown browser environment, with authentication and supervision of the students taking place via webcam. A legal basis for this is the Bavarian Distance Examination Testing Ordinance (BayFEV).
“The issue of data protection is of utmost importance in this context”, explains Prof. Dr. Torsten Eymann, Vice President for Digitization & Innovation at the University of Bayreuth. “We ensure this on the one hand through certified technology, and on the other hand by ensuring that participation is voluntary.” The latter is done by offering an alternative examination that is equivalent in every respect, and in which no data is collected, for example in the case of a simultaneous in-person examination on University premises. “Conducting two exams in parallel brings with it new challenges”, Prof. Dr. Martin Huber, Vice President Teaching & Learning at the University of Bayreuth, points out, adding, “and we also have to accept that not every subject and not every exam topic is equally suitable for online exams.”
Other faculties at the University of Bayreuth are now also using the online exam software. In principle, it is up to the lecturers which form of examination they schedule. However, the University Governing Board of the University of Bayreuth would like to enable all examiners who consider this to be useful and feasible in their subject to hold online examinations. Vice President Eymann predicts, “At the University of Bayreuth, online exams will remain important even ‘after coronavirus’, i.e., minus any pandemic.”
The full evaluation of the pilot phase, including reasons why students believe they should not choose online exams, has recently been published:
Diel S., Eymann T., Kollenda M., Sommer F., Storz S. (2021) Online-Klausuren – Rahmenbedingungen, Implementierung und Evaluation. In: Dittler U., Kreidl C. (eds) Wie Corona die Hochschullehre verändert. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden.
Prof. Dr. Torsten Eymann
Vice President Digitalisation & Innovation
University of Bayreuth
Phone: +49 (0) 921 / 55-7660
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