How EdTech can support Alternative Assessments for Open-book Exams

Ward, Monica (2021) How EdTech can support Alternative Assessments for Open-book Exams.


The sudden need for online exams due to Covid-19 presented many challenges to lecturers, students (Sahu, 2020), and those responsible for general exam infrastructure and support systems. One of the big concerns of lecturers is that it is easier for breaches of academic integrity (Kennedy et al., 2000). Students are concerned about their ability to do an open-book exam and reliable internet connectivity. Those involved in organising exams (e.g. the Registry) have to change the entire process around exams, moving from physical printed exam papers, to putting all the papers (or equivalent) online.

This paper looks at how EdTech facilitated the move from traditional closed-book, invigilated exams to online open-book exams. It outlines the multifaceted role of technology to underpin the entire process including:

Online Community of Practice for Lecturers
It was very difficult for lecturers redesign their traditional exams with very limited time to devote to the vast waves of information about the process coming at them from many different sources. What were good open-book questions? How can quizzes be set up to minimise opportunities for breaches of academic integrity? The solution was to have online community of practice (cop) (Wenger, 2002) sessions for lecturers to help them decipher all the information, requirements and suggestions around the entire process. These online sessions distilled the relevant information into succinct bites of practical information that could be used to design quality open-book exams.

Online Exam Quality Assurance Process
Moving many exams online for a variety of different modules could result in an inconsistent, haphazard set of exams for students. In order to avoid this, it was important to have an online quality assurance process to ensure a consistent, coherent and sensible suite of alternative exams. Technology provided the mechanism to do this with a process that involved online meetings, a repository for exam papers that could be reviewed by a moderator and a standard operating procedure for approval of alternative exams.

Virtual Learning Environment for Hosting Exams
A VLE was used to host a variety of different exams types. These included ‘traditional’ exams (with questions orientated to an open-book context) and quizzes that utilised many of the extra features available in an online environment. Popular features included selecting random questions from a bucket of questions, supressing feedback during and after the exam (as some students were entitled to extra time), random ordering of questions, and using a mix of multiple choice and accompanying essay questions to check on a student’s understanding of a concept. The ability to run answers through plagiarism checking software was also beneficial.


Kennedy, K., Nowak, S., Raghuraman, R., Thomas, J., & Davis, S. F. (2000). Academic dishonesty and distance learning: Student and faculty views. College Student Journal, 34(2).

Sahu, P. (2020). Closure of universities due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): impact on education and mental health of students and academic staff. Cureus, 12(4).

Wenger, E. (2011). Communities of practice: A brief introduction

View Item