It’s that time of year again — we’ve got through the miserable winter and are looking forward to the summer, but for millions of students across the world this won’t be before they sit their end of year exams; not fun by any stretch of the imagination.
But despite the fact that we are surrounded by technology exams are still done (for the most part) through traditional pen and paper methods, with the exception of 6,000 students in Norway who have been trialling a new laptop based education system which will see them sit their exams using their laptops.
Despite their lower population, more hostile environment and smaller economy, Norway seem to be flying ahead of UK with their integration of technology into education and this scheme (currently being tested in the Nord-Trondelag region of Norway [for those not so hot on the geography of Norway, it’s in the thin bit about half way up!]) goes a long way to proving this.
But this is not just about using computers for exams, laptops were issued to students at the beginning of the year to help them with their everyday schoolwork and allowing them to continue this when not in school — useful in a country where in some areas you can get over 100 snow days (+25cm) a year.
They come preinstalled with many essential programmes including word processors, spreadsheet software and other basic utilities, as well as more specialist software depending on your course; art and design student’s laptops would come with Photoshop for example.
However there are some obvious security problems that needed to be addressed and all of these laptops have a monitoring system permanently installed, which although not always activated, allows the teachers to keep track of what the students are doing and (in the case of the exams) stop them from cheating.
Using a system very similar to that used in the UK it combines the obvious banning system (where certain websites cannot be visited) as well as key logging to find out when certain words are used, and then taking a screen shot to see whether or not it was done in a situation that it shouldn’t have been.
Although the former only really applies to lessons as there is theoretically (for obvious reasons) no internet access in exams the latter is used extensively — a girl trying to use translation software was caught using this method (she in fact also typed “If you can see me, stop me” which they did!)
The obvious drawback of using this kind of system in exams is that it makes it a lot more tempting to try and cheat. Although the monitoring software is disabled when not in exams so it cannot be tampered with people still are still trying to get around it in the hope of easily passing the exams; not only does the inevitably end up with them being disqualified but it also wastes a lot of time in the exam!
So this system has definitely made a life a lot easier for examiners and markers, and feedback suggests that it is a success, but is this the sort of thing that we will be seeing in the UK soon?
Unfortunately I think not, this is a similar situation to Estonia being the country embracing new technology the most. The problems of cost, distribution and maintenance would probably be too big to outweigh the benefits that it offers — at least in the eyes of the people in power; so good as I think this will be in Norway (but only after a possible full scale release next year we will truly be able to gauge its success) I’m afraid we will have to concentrate on other matters instead.
Via – BBC