Making the time for open book exams

On the weekend, I read Chris Deneen’s paper “Assessment considerations in moving from closed-book to open-book exams” and it got me reflecting about the time a student needs to complete one. Chris is saying many of the things we are saying in our assessment PD, that we need to rethink testing in the online environment and by doing this we can provide a testing environment that moves away from simple memorisation to providing case studies and problems that reflect the real world of work our students will be entering and the opportunity for higher order thinking assessments.

With the stress of the current pandemic, of working in unusual circumstances, and with many of our students coming from a second language background, the timing of these open book exams should be re-thought. It may take an international student, or a particularly anxious student, twice the time to read the case-study than what we believe, hence, affecting their score in the end if the test has a strict time limit. To mitigate this risk, we could offer the case-study or problem as a pre-reading by making it a ‘Prerequisite Module’ in Canvas. The prerequisite module allows them as much time as possible to read through the case or problem, to start the thought process on what questions might be ahead, and to approach the test with confidence. Obviously you should repeat the case-study/problem in the test itself so they can easily refer back to it when required but giving them time to become really familiar with the case prior to opening the test will be advantageous and close the accessibility gap for those experiencing learning barriers. The instructions to using Canvas prerequisites are here.

You could always provide the prerequisite module a week beforehand and link it to a discussion board in Canvas; this provides a week to discuss, dissect, and challenge thought processes with the case before the students see the actual questions. This is assessment ‘for’ learning as opposed to assessment ‘of’ learning and provides plenty of time to steer learning prior to testing; that is good teaching.

To attend any of our assessment sessions and hear other ideas, see the Studios Eventbrite page.