Write your exams from your bedroom

Jessica Shepherd | July 26, 2010

IT HAS long been said that exams should be sat in comfort – in loose-fitting clothing and with a glass of water handy. Now scientists have taken this a step further, finding a way for students to take tests from their homes at any time of day or night.

The University of Wales Institute in Cardiff is experimenting with the technology, which has built in anti-cheating software and was developed by the US firm Software Secure. It works through a unit that students plug into their computers.

Once a student feels ready to sit the written exam, the technology takes a fingerprint to check their identity and a webcam and microphone kick into action.

Throughout the exam, these pick up whether the student is trying to cheat by receiving help from others. The computer also locks down so the student cannot search the internet or their files for answers.

Invigilators watch the footage, whenever they choose to. Some may decide to watch each individual student taking their exam, while others will only view a sample of candidates, or speed through the footage. The technology, called Securexam Remote Proctor, is already used by New York University’s law faculty, the University of West Alabama and other US institutions.

Mark Pelling, the senior learning development officer at the University of Wales Institute, said the software acted in the same way as a normal invigilator. ”This could change the way we do assessments,” he said.

”We are convinced by this and we think it is probably a very effective way of invigilating.”

Douglas Winneg, Software Secure’s founder, said the examination technology would help disabled students and those who live in remote areas to take their exams and would make employers less sceptical about distance learning courses.

Kate Byford, the senior policy adviser on disability at the Equality Challenge Unit, which assists British universities to cater for all students, said she welcomed practical measures to develop ”alternative approaches to assessment”.

Aaron Porter, the president-elect of the National Union of Students, warned against using the technology as an excuse to cut costs by reducing the amount of contact time students have with university staff.

Guardian News & Media

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