Vol 12, Issue 4
You may or may not have had the option to complete an exam using your laptop. The University is trialling ‘Examsoft’, an application which temporarily commandeers a PC or Mac laptop, dedicating it exclusively to completing your exam from the time you launch the program to the time you click the submit button.
The upshot is that you can type, rather than handwrite, the exam. This is a very good thing.
One principle of assessment in education is that an assessment should, as far as is possible, assess the knowledge and skills relevant to the subject, and not some other skill peculiar to the method of assessment. Handwriting large amounts of text is no longer a general skill. Handwriting furiously for three hours without stopping is a herculean nonsense undertaken only by law students. Typing is, by comparison, an everyday life skill.
I’m sure it’s appreciated by the examiner as well. Inevitably – and I say this as someone who’s marked my fair share of exams – if the examiner has to read over a paragraph a half dozen times to make sense of it, they are unlikely to be in a generous mood when assigning a mark to it. Typed exams are easier on our hands and their eyes; I encourage the University to keep developing this option for students.
However, introducing computers into the exam environment does raise some issues regarding the integrity of the assessment. The two I’ve noticed doing laptop exams both have to do with reading time. Firstly, Examsoft doesn’t shut down the applications on your laptop until writing time starts. That means that during reading time, your web browser is still fully functional. Secondly, the program doesn’t start until you launch it, at which point your own exam time begins. It would be possible for the unscrupulous to intentionally delay launching the program to extend their own reading time.
So the University needs to think carefully about how to invigilate laptop exams. But overall, the benefits greatly outweigh the potential problems.
Ben Wilson is a third-year JD student
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