2.1 – Users
Most problems with a computer exam happen before the exam, usually during the login process. The students were not used to having to enter their login and password while being under great pressure. Most of our support was to keep them calm. Now that HST students have each had at least 5 exams at the computer in their career so far, only in rare cases do we have to help with the process.
The examiners have also had some trouble but as I helped a lot along the way–I helped with the setup of the quiz, entering the questions, adjusting the correct secure settings, informed students, informed LET, coordinated and directed lecturers and students at the exam, downloaded results, and calculated grades–, next to designing the questions, they could mostly sit back and relax. Most of the problems at the beginning happened with the correction. Moodle is not a very intuitive tool but it is powerful. The first lecturer, who was bold enough to try regrading a question on their own, unfortunately failed.
2.2 – System
Moodle has been very reliable. Sometimes the network was so slow that the students were almost driven crazy. At one exam there were lots of very short true/false questions that produced a huge amount of simultaneous clicking by approximately 200 students. This was too much and produced some (traffic) jam! To go from one question to another some students had to wait up to two minutes. If I remember correctly, we had two such exams where we gave the students more time to finish their exam than originally intended. Still, I imagine, this was torture for the students.
We’ve also had a variety of bugs. Every session there was something new we did not expect. The best bug was the one that froze the keyboards! And one time, the Switch AAI Shibboleth login struck. Nobody could do anything on site. All in all, most of the time the bugs were quickly fixed and everything went on smoothly.
2.3 – Ressources
Next to the obvious computer room scarceness, the human resources were quickly used up. The big and fast bump in HST computer exams did not help at all. Processes were not in place, support on site used up too many people, and I could not reduplicate myself to help all the lecturers as I did in the beginning. Something had to change! LET professionalized all procedures and I had to tell lecturers that they could not count on me anymore. At that time, I launched the survey about which you can read in the next chapter.
Lockers (or locker rooms or just any kind of space) for jackets, bags, suitcases and snowboards (I’m not kidding, I’ve seen at least one snowboard in an exam room every winter session) are not available. Big piles form next to the doors and students have to wait patiently to be able to put their stuff somewhere. It is slow and messy. The even bigger problem happens when we have an exam at the end of the semester (not in an exam session) with more than 120 students. In that case we divide them in two groups (e.g. first group at 9:00 and second group at 11:00) and we have to lock the students up for the second ‘seating’. We then also book an additional room for all their stuff. This is not fun for anybody.
2.4 – On the Upside
Not one of the D-HEST computer exams had to be aborted. With the great help of LET, we always managed to overcome all obstacles and made it happen.