NEW CASE STUDY: Despite the dominance of computers in our lives today, most exams across Australia are still completed using old-fashioned pen and paper. This can cause fatigue in candidates, see exam-markers expend unnecessary effort deciphering answers, and restrict curricula to topics that can be assessed by hand.
Unhappy with the status quo, a project relying on open source software, USB drives and AARNet’s CloudStor service is bringing students a step closer to taking exams using their own laptops.
The project – Transforming exams across Australia: Processes and platform for e-exams in high stakes, supervised environments – is piloting an exam platform delivered on a USB that they hope will eventually replace pen and paper.
Led by Dr. Mathew Hillier at Monash University, the project is funded by the Office of Teaching and Learning and involves nine Australian universities. The e-exams solution it is piloting was initially developed by Dr Andrew Fluck from the University of Tasmania‘s Faculty of Education.
Dr Fluck’s solution sees students bring their laptops to a supervised exam room, where they are provided with a USB. Booting their laptop from the USB loads an Ubuntu-based operating system and the e-exams software, which runs the exam and prevents access to the internet and other drives.
The project’s nine partner universities are currently piloting the platform with the aim of all adopting it, either partially or fully, by the end of the three-year project.
This goal is being supported by AARNet’s CloudStor: project partners, spread across Australia, rely on CloudStor to share large files, and students use it to download a practice version of the e-exam platform onto their own USBs.
“Each candidate intending to use the e-exam platform needs to familiarise themselves with a practice version of the system and gain a certificate of competence before the exam,’ Dr Fluck explains.
“This involves making a file containing the practice operating system – which is at least 2.5GB – available to them to download. Previous attempts to achieve this using commercial storage solutions were unsuccessful as download limits were quickly breached or services were prohibitively expensive.
“We’ve been using CloudStor for the last nine months and it’s fantastic because it lets students download the file quickly and easily – and at no cost if they are on almost any university network.”
Because the project is open source, a copy of the platform is also publically available for download from the AARNet mirror service.
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