University Exams on Computers
Submitted by Joshua Hesketh on Sun, 16/03/2008 - 15:25.
Last year the University of Tasmania hired Open Technology Solutions to develop a trial system for doing exams on computers. The idea is that some students are much more efficient at typing then they are at handwriting and teachers may want to assess computing or certain application skills. As a first trial solution, OTS worked on a program to make Linux Live CD's to allow full customisation and control over the work environment.
By using an Open Source operating system we are able to have full control over the computer. This means that depending on the exam a teacher may enable network access, remove certain applications, disable wireless or the Internet and many other options to allow for a fair and locked down testing environment or an open learning system where students may produce work in any application they like (for example, graphics with The GIMP).
Creating Live CD's makes exam distribution a lot easier. The university has a CD replicator robot and is able to hand out CD's to students to complete the exams on their computers. This also gives the possibility of students to bring in their own laptops into exams, especially if hard drive access has been disabled on the Live CD. Allowing students to bring in their own laptops cut down overhead prices of moving computers into an exam room or supplying a lot of laptops solely for exams (since standard computer labs aren't orientated well enough for exams).
To produce these Live CD's, OTS worked on Reconstructor by improving it and adding easy to use options. Reconstructor is a great little program designed to make custom Ubuntu CD's. However it is a little technical and you would need to know what you are doing to disable certain aspects such as the Internet or Bluetooth etc. This functionality was implemented by OTS which allows the entire process of creating a Live CD to be streamlined into an easy to use wizard. OTS will be submitting their work back to the Reconstructor project to help enhance their work for the use of others, thanks to the University of Tasmania's approval.
At the moment the University is just trying out the system to see how viable it is to run exams on computers. Depending on its success we may look at developing other methods of deployment for Linux based exam systems in the long term. So far the Education sector has run a real student, in-class, test using a Live CD with great success and the coordinator of the project intends on running one exam on computers later this year.
In February we were able to finish up our work on Reconstructor and deliver the product. We will continue to work closely with the University as we explore the success of this system and analyse efficient ways to allow students to complete exams on computers. We are very excited about the progress of Open Source in the Education industry and this a great step towards the future!