24-hour Papers: The Open-Book Alternative to Exams for Online Assessment

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Common unit specifications covering delivery of subject-identical units across different courses, often with different delivery methods, are increasingly being implemented. The inclusion of a …

Common unit specifications covering delivery of subject-identical units across different courses, often with different delivery methods, are increasingly being implemented. The inclusion of a ‘coursework’ element of assessment allows for flexibility. This is different when an ‘exam’ is required; with students on a fully-online course, unable to attend an exam centre, due to differences in time zones and/or locations, the concept of an open-book exam is used. The exam paper is released to students through our VLE (Blackboard) at a time that is agreed and broadcast to students in advance. Submission of their work is required within a 24-hour window via an upload of their files to the VLE (using either the standard submission tool or Turnitin).

This presentation will draw upon the Bournemouth University’s substantial experience of presenting ‘Time-Constrained Papers’ to students studying at a distance and will consider the issues surrounding this approach. Particular consideration will be given to the importance of question design to limit scope for academic dishonesty and the University’s plans to modify this approach in the forthcoming academic year.

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  • 1. 24-hour Papers: The Open-Book Alternative to Exams for Online Assessment David Hopkins The Business School, Bournemouth University
  • 2. Outline
    • Introduction
    • The Programme
    • The Students
    • The Assessment(s)
    • Time-constrained Papers (TCPs)
    • The Future
  • 3. Context - The Programme
    • Under-graduate Honours degree.
    • Fully online delivery.
    • Two cohorts per year (Sept & Jan start).
    • 18 months per Level.
    • 6-week intensive Unit delivery.
    • Sequential Unit delivery.
    • Online assignment submission.
    • ~200 students currently studying.
  • 4. Context - The Students
    • Tend to be older, more mature.
    • Bring differing levels of work experience, from many different disciplines.
    • Returning back to education after a significant break, some never completing formal education after ‘O’ level/GCSE’s.
    • Will have competing/conflicting priorities for time: work, family, study, etc.
  • 5. Online TCP vs. Campus Exam
    • Units share common Unit Specification document (incl. ILOs and ‘indicative assessment’).
    • TCPs written specifically for Online Units to encourage students to include work-based practices.
    • TCPs are not aligned to timing of campus-based exams.
    • Tutors are given guidance on designing TCP and including Learning Activities in Unit.
  • 6.
    • Indicative Assessment strategy for a Level H Unit:
    Unit Specification
  • 7. The Assessment(s)
    • Each Unit will typically have assessment of either:
      • 100% Coursework, or
      • 100% TCP, or
      • 50% Coursework / 50% TCP.
    • All assessments are submitted online, using VLE (Blackboard).
  • 8. Assignment Types
    • Coursework:
      • MCQs,
      • Collaborative project (Wiki),
      • Reflective writing (Blog),
      • Conference activity (Discussion Board),
      • Report / Essay / Case Study,
      • Portfolio of work.
    • TCP:
      • Evidence- or work experience-based Assignment.
  • 9. Time-Constrained Papers (TCPs)
    • Students given indication on time recommended to spend on TCP.
    • Assignment released in the VLE at 12PM (Noon, GMT) on last Thursday in Unit.
    • Students have 24 hours to submit their completed assignment, via the VLE.
    • Late submissions are recorded as ‘zero’ marks.
  • 10. Student Expectations
    • Students are advised:
      • Do NOT spend 24 hours on assignment.
      • Encouraged to set aside space/time free from distractions.
    • Time to spend on TCP:
      • Where 100% of Unit mark: 3 to 4 hours.
      • Where 50% of Unit mark: 2 to 2½ hours.
  • 11. Instructions to Students
    • Introductory video guide & activity.
    • Include Assignment coversheet.
    • Include ALL relevant files for submission.
    • Review ‘submission complete’ screen for submission history message and submission time stamp.
    • Complete submission process early, before deadline: BU ‘late = zero’ policy enforced.
  • 12. Designing the TCP
    • “ The programme philosophy aims to enable students to make use of their work and life experiences and integrate theoretical models with practical application. Not all students are in this position though and coursework or TCP briefs should attempt to accommodate everyone.” Tutor Guidance Paper for Writing TCPs (July 2011).
  • 13. Designing the TCP
    • “ In an attempt to deter the students who would seek an unfair advantage by submitting a longer more in-depth answer to the TCP, a word limit was imposed and students were advised to spend no more than the allotted time on their assignment.” A. Cronin, Level C ‘Legal Relationships’ (July 2011)
  • 14. Designing the TCP
    • “ The [TCP] questions should reflect not only on the ability of students to search and identify the necessary knowledge but also to test their capacity for critical evaluation. These are well received by the students as their answers show.” C. Apostolakis, Level H ‘Strategic Management’ (August2011).
  • 15. Designing the TCP
    • “ In considering the part-time online students the design of the TCP must consider the application of theories and concepts so much more than for campus-based exams. These students are in the work place and have so much work experience to bring to their studies.” C. Burr, Level H ‘International Marketing Management’ (July 2011).
  • 16. Student Fears
    • Student often fear exams, and TCPs are no different.
    • Students are informed of TCP processes and dates within the Induction programme.
    • Unit guides specify TCP conditions, expected time allocation & word limit.
    • Administrative support available during 24 hour window, usual academic rules apply.
  • 17. Academic Integrity
    • Tutors are advised:
      • Do not ask questions with answers that can be easily quoted.
      • Do encourage personal and professional experiences to be used where appropriate.
      • Do encourage participation and engagement with Learning Activities.
      • Explicit instructions that are clear, simple, and easy to understand.
  • 18. Where are TCPs heading?
    • Programme changing to 8-week delivery for each Unit.
    • TCPs changing to 48-hour period to reduce number of late submissions and mitigating circumstances.
    • Submission via online plagiarism-detection/deterrent tool (Turnitin) in trial.
  • 19. Thank you @hopkinsdavid [email_address]