Context: The course comprised a large and diverse group of students living in very different circumstances. This meant that some students had access to a lot of help and reference materials (e.g. Google searching for answers) that would enable cheating, while others had none. The open-book format thus required new material with different questions, but this may have disadvantaged those students without access to extensive reference material.
Purpose: The summative assessments were class tests. There were also weekly quizzes, as well as exercises, which had questions of a similar level to those in the test. These exercises were not graded, but would help prepare students for the test.
Process: It was necessary to redesign some of the assessments with completely new questions, and with new contexts, so these were not your run-of-the-mill textbook questions. Questions were randomly drawn from question pools corresponding to each section of the syllabus. This made the chances of students getting the identical questions very low, and so reducing the opportunity to collude. Tests were open-book and administered online via Vula. The window in which to take the test was open for 24 to 72 hours and students were given 90 minutes (compared to 60 minutes prior to ERT) to complete the test. Most questions were numeric response format.
Outcomes/ Lessons learned: ERT has exacerbated problems related to diversity and highlighted inequality in a negative way. Students struggled without face-to-face contact and the whiteboard sessions held previously. Implementing weekly assessment of tutorial engagement in the second semester was a helpful practice. Moving away from standard text-book style tests is going to be necessary in the future, because we’re going to get to a point where we can’t prevent students from accessing the internet to find answers.
Recommendations: To balance concerns of fairness while mitigating against dishonesty, place effort in developing large question pools with novel questions to assess students in an open-book format with additional time to complete.