UK update #1 – computers in exams

danish examsI’ve arrived safely in the UK and have been busy attending meetings with a range of people from different education agencies and in schools. A hot topic of discussion has been around achievement standards and how we measure student progress in schools.

With that in mind, this morning I watched an intriguing piece on BBC TV discussing a project involving 14 colleges in Denmark that are piloting a new system of exams where students are allowed full access to the internet during their final exams. According to the article, in the exam, students can access any site they like, even Facebook, but they cannot message each other or email anyone outside the classroom.

The Swedish government are quoted as saying, “if the internet is so much a part of daily life, it should be included in the classroom and in examinations.” This is something that many educators, including myself, have been contemplating for some time how – and have experimented with in terms of internal assessments and end of project studies. But the prospect of seeing it introduced as a part of a national, formal assessment process has, until now anyway, always seemed ‘out of reach’.

Obvious considerations such as the ability to provide everyone with appropriate computer access, the need for reliable and robust network access to the internet, and the assumption that students will have the necessary information literacy skills to use this access to advantage have all been seen as hurdles too big to overcome by some – and as excuses not to pursue the idea any further by others.

Good on the Swedish government for taking this concept a step further and actually implementing a solution. It will certainly be interesting to see how things progress – particularly in their assumptions about student integrity and discipline not to cheat.

All schools in the country have been invited to join the scheme by 2011.

2 thoughts on “UK update #1 – computers in exams

  1. I think this is a very intriguing concept. Some may consider the use of the internet during exams is “cheating”, but I feel that this is not the case. School is not about memorizing facts and information, it is about learning how to learn and becoming analytical and critical thinkers. How many of us use the internet to find information and conduct research? Allowing students to use the tools and resources available to them, including the internet, enables them to become effective learners.

  2. I guess allowing access to the internet defines a difference between testing a students knowledge of a subject vs their understanding.

    As a web developer, I use the internet every day to look up code snippets, method signatures, and other bits and pieces because I’m working in 3 or 4 different languages and could never possibly be expected to remember every detail of every language and tool I use. However, the information that I access requires a certain level of knowledge and understand to interpret and use.

    When I was a student I often felt that too much of my revision time was spent learning facts and figures, which stopped me spending time developing new understandings, theories or ideas to pose in an examination.

    Access to the internet is an interesting way of solving this problem, but it does pose problems as students will have different levels of ability to find information relevent to the exam. Then again, the same could be said if textbooks were allowed in exams – some students are better at using index and contents pages than others.

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