But not every study programme or faculty can make that switch, because online proctoring exams, as the filmed home exams are formally known, are extremely labour intensive. Image and sound needs to be checked to determine whether someone is cheating or is not complying with the rules in other ways. In addition, examinations in which ‘big brother’ is watching you create all kinds of privacy issues. Who is allowed to view the images? What if something intimate is filmed by accident? And where and for how long will these images be stored? “These are complicated dilemmas”, stated Brigitte Widdershoven, Head of Academic Affairs and closely involved in coordinating all examinations during the coronavirus crisis.
For the ‘mega bachelors’ of Business Administration and Economics (both approximately 4,400 bachelor students), the proctoring method is not really an option due to the amount of work (watching 4,400 videos). But there are other options. Some faculties have chosen take-home examinations, in which the student needs to apply knowledge or analyse questions instead of reproducing knowledge. But that again creates additional work for lecturers in producing and marking the examinations. Other faculties have cancelled examinations until the Van der Goot building opens again, but that could lead to study delay. And what do you do with international students who have all left to go back to their families in other countries?
Entire day of Zoom meetings
It is clear that a customised approach is needed per faculty and even per year or course. Each type of examination has its own disadvantages or limitations: a proctoring examination is privacy sensitive, a take-home examination or essay is labour intensive and a multiple-choice examination is open to fraud. It is a complicated balance for the university, between lecturer workload and potential study delay, the right to privacy, or inconvenience for students.
A lot of consultation is taking place about how to continue with all examinations. “The vice-deans of education meet weekly with the Examining Boards and they also have their own individual meetings”, explained Widdershoven, who has herself just sat through an entire day of Zoom meetings. “The faculties have made plans up until the summer, but of course these still depend on developments. Can we use the Van der Goot building after 1 June or not?” That is why the university is also considering the medium and long term and has established a working group to assess how examinations and lectures can take place in a 1.5-metre society. Because delays in this academic year will have direct consequences for the next academic year. That is why the university is also considering making changes to the strict division between bachelor degrees and master degrees, and there is already a leniency rule for the binding study advice.
Which choices are faculties making? EM has selected a large (ESE), a small (ESHCC) and a medium-sized (ESSB) faculty to see how they are organising the examinations.
Alternative types of exams at Economics
For the smaller examinations, the Erasmus School of Economics is looking for alternative types of tests. This mainly involves courses in the third year of the bachelor degree and the master degree phase. The faculty, the biggest covered in this article, is considering essays, a take-home examination or an online examination, possibly with audio-visual supervision or online proctoring. To prevent technical problems, the ESE is offering a time slot so you can check your laptop a few days prior to your examination. The times of the examinations have not been changed, however, which could result in inconvenience for students who have left and are living in a different time zone. The courses in the first and second year of the bachelor degree are too large for this, so the examinations for these are being cancelled unless it is possible to conduct examinations on campus again after 1 June.
Everything online at ESHCC
All examinations are taking place and all are online at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, the smallest of the three faculties. The only change is that the examinations will now all take place in the middle of the day. This is to make things as easy as possible for students living in different time zones. The ESHCC is choosing proctoring in exceptional cases, but the rest involve so-called take-home examinations, ‘with more application of knowledge, analysis or synthesis and no reproduction questions’. There are still some multiple-choice questions, but students must explain their answers. No special software is needed for the take-home examinations; these can be done in Word, Excel and Canvas.
No experience with proctoring at ESSB as yet
As far as the faculty can predict, all examinations at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences will go ahead, but in a changed form. This form will differ per examination: there are take-home examinations like ESHCC is using, and there will also be proctoring examinations. However, ESSB has no experience using these, so the faculty is first conducting a trial in small groups. A third alternative is home testing, in which students are required to write an improvement plan if they do not pass. According to the spokesperson, ESSB uses this in the large bachelor degree examinations that ‘are at the start of the learning pathway’, so that the subject matter can be tested in more depth later in the study programme. The digital tests are to be taken using the Remindo software package.