Digital exams – Norway is leading the way

The pressure is on: students don’t want to wait – they want digital exams right now.

The push for digital assessment in universities has never been greater than it is today. In all other aspects of society students, academic and administrative staff are used to a digital environment.

But in most universities students are still forced to reproduce their knowledge with pen and paper.

NREN collaboration

Now a number of NRENs are taking on the challenge of digitizing exams, taking on a role as innovators and breaking new ground, developing technology and cooperating across borders to achieve their goal.

Norway is considered one of the frontrunners in this area, with the Norwegian research and education network UNINETT coordinating a large national digitization project.

The system for this will be unified across higher education, which will deliver benefits both in user-friendliness and in use of resources. However, the process is complex, and will also involve the bureaucracy connected to public data acquisitions.

According to Freddy Barstad, project lead at UNINETT, there is a rising awareness for considering digital exams in many countries. Countries at the cutting edge are UK, Denmark and the Netherlands, together with Norway.

Discussing all aspects

According to Barstad, the Norwegian approach has evolved from discussing all aspects of digital exams as a whole to identifying and structuring the issue, so that the discussions can take place in separate fields, within suitable forums containing the appropriate technical competencies.

The aim for the universities is to digitize the whole workflow of an exam, from the creation of assignments, until the grade is final and the results archived.

This workflow involves a large number of stakeholders, and even more systems that have to be integrated. It is essential to digitize the whole process; otherwise, digital exams will mean more work and higher costs then traditional exams.

Building a toolbox

UNINETT is collaborating with other European NRENs on this huge endeavour, including building a toolbox for digital assessment together with JISC, the operator of UK NREN Janet, under the auspices of Eunis, the European University Information Systems organisation.

But, there is still a long way to go before digital exams are mainstream.

According to the Gartner Group’s 2015 Hype Cycle for Education, digital assessment has just emerged as a new buzzword ”on the rise” and is expected to reach maturity in 5 to 10 years time, although the Norway will achieve this goal much earlier: 15% of all exams will be digitized in 2015 and 60 % in 2016.

Published: 11/2015

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