Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Large Scale Electronic Examinations at ANU

Steve Blackburn
Professor Steve Blackburn will speak on "Electronic Exams" at the Australian National University in Canberra, 1pm 3 December 2015:
"This talk will discuss an experiment with a large scale electronic examination.
Pen and paper exams are the staple of examinations at institutions like ANU, however the pen-and-paper modality has a number of significant shortcomings:
  1. It is pedagogically limiting; evaluating the students in a setting often unlike the environment in which the teaching and learning occurs, denying access to tools that may be fundamental to the subject matter;
  2. It does not lend itself well to large classes and the possibility of auto-grading;
  3. student handwriting can be very hard to read!  
Electronic exams address these concerns and create a number of opportunities in the design of the exam and in the marking process. The Research School of Computer Science has been using electronic exams for over a decade, using a flexible and robust system of locked-down computers. 
However, the systems used at the Research School of Computer Science were tailored towards computing courses and are did not include a generic, straightforward and accessible framework in which the exam itself could be conducted. Moodle also provides means for running exams, but has a number of open challenges relating to security and robustness in an exam setting.   This semester I built a browser-based electronic exam that is flexible, amenable to other disciplines and content, is designed to look familiar and easy to use, is client-side (not requiring connectivity to a server) and is usable in any operating system that supports a modern web browser.
In this talk I will discuss the various factors that motivated the design of this electronic exam, its applicability to other disciplines, challenges and opportunities ahead, and the outcome of using the system in a large (>200) first year class in the Semester 2 2015 examination period.
You can see a sample of the exam here (  
This talk will be targeted to a broad audience and I will ensure that there is plenty of time for discussion among attendees."


  1. I don't suppose this was recorded was it Tom? Just back in the office and missed this email but we had our first online exam trial this semester.

    1. Colin, the Electronic exams talk was recorded. I am just checking with Professor Blackburn when it can be made available.

      Tom W.

    2. Colin, Professor Steve Blackburn's Electronic exams talk is now available at: