New Feature: Electronic Exams

This week, the LET is proud to present a new feature for the VLC and its linguistic courses, namely newly developed, highly interactive online examinations. These E-Exams (or Electronic Exams) are meant to replace the traditional means of student evaluation at the end of a course (more precisely, the written test).

The principle of E-Exams is simple: You design a number of different tasks (multiple choice exercises, naming tasks, pointing tasks, listening or comprehension tasks, etc.) and create a corpus of questions for these tasks. These corpora eventually contain far more questions than are needed for one individual exam. When a student opens his or her exam, a random set of questions for each task is dynamically compiled from these corpora. This means that each student receives his or her own personally generated exam. As a consequence, virtually no two students take the exact same test at the same time. The following picture shows an exemplary question for a multiple choice task.

E-Exam Multiple Choice Task

The tasks are challenging and show a high degree of interactivity: For example, a student could be asked to listen to a consontal sound (via headphones) and locate this sound on the consonant chart. Or, he or she could be asked to listen to a word and enter the appropriate transcription on screen. Or, he or she could be shown an interactive picture of the human vocal tract and be asked to locate the velum (see picture below for an example of a pointing task question).

E-Exam Pointing Task

Every action and answer of the student is digitally stored to ensure that the results can be based on facts rather than subjective interpretation. Furthermore, the results are checked and calculated by the computer. All the information, i.e. all answers and actions as well as the calculated results, are at the instructor’s disposal immediately after the exam. The tedious work of deciphering students’ handwriting and manually correcting hundreds of exam papers is done by the computer in but a second.

The advantages of having an Electronic Exam at your disposal are most convincing: The exams are fully interactive, so they allow for more creative task design and the inclusion of multimedia (such as pictures, videos, animations, and audio). E-Exams transcend the possibilities of ordinary paper and can make testing more relevant for the student as well as interesting at the same time. Furthermore, they take a load off the instructor by eliminating tedious and repetitive exam marking. Instead, the exam finally does what it is supposed to do: Showing what the student actually knows.

PS: In the first run, examinations for several distinct courses were made using E-Exams. Over 400 students were tested (and graded) in less than 5 days, including several students from overseas.


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