Software enables secure online exams for BSMS students

After a successful pilot last year, some of the postgraduate taught courses at BSMS have started delivering fully electronic exams. Last month, students studying on the Clinical Radiology course completed multiple-choice exams for the module topics Anatomy and Physics, which were delivered through University of Brighton’s ‘studentcentral’ virtual learning environment and secure software, Impero.

Nick Feather
Nick Feather

Apart from the obvious benefit of exam attempts being automatically scored by the system, there were additional positive reasons for trialling this online delivery over a paper-based approach:

Firstly, a comprehensive question bank can be developed within studentcentral which can be adapted to create individual exams; you don’t have to create the test in another piece of software. If using multiple-choice, the correct answer can be set within the system and all relevant staff (internal and external) can be provided with access. Studentcentral also supports essay style answers for online exams.

Secondly, in terms of security, the online exam can be made available to students within a defined timeframe (e.g. the link appears just 15 minutes before the start of the exam) and a custom password was provided to grant access. The questions were presented randomly as a list on a single webpage, so students each had a unique view of the exam ‘paper’. The Falmer Library computer room used for this exam has a network of PCs running classroom management software, Impero. This software enables internet access to be restricted on those machines to ‘white-listed’ websites so students are prevented from visiting any websites not applicable to the exam, as well as from accessing USB or network drives.

Thirdly, the system offers question analysis data. As an example, it is possible to quickly retrieve a difficulty score for each question, alongside ‘average score’ and ‘standard deviation’ and ‘standard error’. All this data can be downloaded as a report.

Finally, when scores are released to students, these are available through ‘MyGrades’ within studentcentral so students can see their scores where they expect to see them (and, therefore, consistent with University of Brighton’s EMA policy). The ‘post date’ – ie. when the grades are made available to students – can be set by the course team.

The Department of Medical Education (DME) are planning to rollout this online delivery of exams to further modules. If you would like more information about this type of assessment via studentcentral, or Impero software, please contact your learning technologist: Tim Vincent (undergraduate) or Nick Feather (postgraduate).