Archive for Online Timed Assessments

Marking Time

Posted in Covid-19, Education, Maynooth with tags , , on June 12, 2020 by telescoper

In among all the other things I have to do I’ve just finished marking my portion of examinations and other assessments in time for next week’s Examination Boards. I have to attend two (virtually), one for Theoretical Physics and one for Engineering Mathematics. You may recall that, this year, along with many other universities, we switched from the usual examination format to online timed assessments.

Obviously I can’t talk about any actual results here but I can relay a few general points.

First, there were remarkably few hitches in the examination process. I would like to say that I was totally confident that the new system would work, but I’m afraid I was very nervous during the examination period. I’m glad that I was proved wrong. That’s not only due to very hard work by the teaching staff in getting everything together to go online and the technical support staff for ensuring the submission portals could handle the load, but also due to the students who coped admirably well with the new assessment style.

That said, I think if we are going to have such assessments again in the future there are things we could improve.In particular the mathematical nature of our work means that students have to do their working, diagrams etc by hand and sometimes the quality of scanning made the resulting submissions very difficult to read. If we had had time we could have offered more training to the students on how to scan their work more legibly, so next time we will probably do that too. Indeed we will probably be doing most of the coursework that way next term so they will probably get more practice anyway.

Printing the work out usually made the legibility problem worse, so I generally marked as much as I could on the screen. We don’t have very good software for doing this in bulk so it was painfully slow. I estimate it took me about three times as long to mark an examination script this way than doing it on paper. I’d be very interesting to hear via the comments box of any suggestions or recommendations of software to help this process!

The main purpose of this post however is to say a very public thank you to all the teaching staff in the Department of Theoretical Physics and to our admirable Departmental Administrator Suzie  for working so hard in difficult circumstances to get everything done in time!