Almost 2,000 Year 12 students in South Australia have made history, becoming the first in the country to sit an end-of-year exam electronically by completing it on laptops.
- The English exam was the first in the nation to be conducted electronically
- Students were given access to customised laptops with no internet access and no spellcheck
- Many gave it the thumbs up, although it was not without teething problems
Students enrolled in English Literary Studies this afternoon were assessed in a format that reflects how they have been learning all year, as the education system moves with the times.
The students sat the exam, worth 15 per cent of their overall mark, on computers that were locked down to an examination browser to prevent internet access.
They were also denied access to a spellcheck tool, but the experience seems to have been a good one for many of the students.
“It actually feels pretty natural because most of our assignments are already on computers,” one said.
Another said it was “much more efficient” than the traditional exams, but it was not without teething problems.
“There were a few issues with keyboards, one of my keys broke [but] I got a new laptop, they had plenty spare,” one student said.
Adelaide High School principal Cez Green said the students were relaxed and confident using the technology in the new setting.
“What has changed is this cohort’s attitude, just chatting to them before they went in they were actually quite relaxed and excited,” she said.
“What I’ve seen previously, part of the nervousness is actually about using paper and that sense of being in an exam, and this feels different.
“They can write much faster generally than they can using pen and paper it would be really interesting to interrogate the results.”
The rollout follows a successful trial of the format in September, and SACE Board chief executive Professor Martin Westwell said the students took to the test well.
“The feedback that we’re getting from students through the trials is overwhelmingly positive… electronic exams are really closer to the way in which students are learning today,” Professor Westwell said.
“When we hear about students having to practice handwriting in order to do exams, that seems like the change is overdue.
“We wanted to make sure that we got the technology right, that it was going to be a technology that worked for students, that it was going to be stable and it was going to be secure.”
In the event of any network or computer problems, students revert to a like-for-like paper-based test.
Professor Westwell said while the exams are currently a digitised version of the existing paper exam, in future the assessment board would look at using technology to offer exams in different and better formats.
Students also had access to a paper form of the exam if there was a tech glitch. (ABC News: Casey Briggs)
The SACE Board plans to introduce electronic exams for subjects such as Modern History and Psychology next year.
It said it needs more time to develop the tests for maths and science-based courses, which use symbols and Greek letters that are not easily typed on a keyboard.
“But we don’t want to do electronic exams just for the sake of it, it’s got to be better assessment and if we can find a solution that is better assessment, we’ll investigate that,” Professor Westwell said.