Updated 2020-03-17 20:30.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LiU has decided to switch all examination to distance mode from March 18. Read more about the measures taken by LiU.
This text contains general advice for examiners about to change from a traditional sit-in exam to a digital take-hom exam.
Take-home exams in general
Take-home exams means that students have access to all kinds of support and resources: the course book, old exams, the entire internet, other students, parents, neighbours. It is impossible to prevent the use of these resources, so the take-home exam must be constructed so that the resources play only a minor part in assessing students' knowledge and skills.
Since students have access to resources, a take-home exam can principally only assess skills on a higher taxonomic level. Problems are usually centered around applying, analyzing, evaluating or creating. If you have questions about defining, describing, discussing or calculating, these are better suited for sit-in exams in a controlled environment, since these questions otherwise can be answered by a simple google search or by using different digital tools. This means that not all courses are suited for a change of examination format.
General advice concerning take-home exams
Send students' answers to the anti-plagiarism control service Urkund for analysis. This can be done with a few simple clicks if you use the submissions feature in Lisam.
- Limited timeframe
Give the students a limited timeframe to complete the take-home exam. The appropriate time depends on the number and type of questions, but there is no point in being too generous with time. Set up the take-home exam for a day (e.g. 8-17) or for 24 hours (e.g. from lunch to lunch). Consider using the same day that the original sit-in exam was planned. Please remember that the students will have other exams and other courses planned.
- Specific questions that demands deep understanding
Formulate questions that requires a deep understanding of the subject matter, and at the same time are very specific. If your questions are too generic, it will be easy to google for an answer. Questions should be detailed and have a specific context. Consider googling the questions yourself, just to see what the students will see when they google. Require proofs and motivation. Also, require the students to refer to your course material, just to make sure the answer is not copied from the internet.
- Creative thinking
Create questions that require a certain measure of creative thinking. This will make students' answers more unique. Questions should be interesting challenges, not just mechanical writing or calculating (unless that is what is being assessed).
- Word or page limit
Set a word or page limit. This will not only save time when correcting the exam, but will also require the students to edit their answers to make the most of the space they have.
- Clear instructions
Spend a lot of time writing clear instructions for the take-home exam. Students are stressed and insecure on a normal exam, and when the format is changed with short notice they need even clearer instructions. This will also limit the number of e-mail questions during the take-home exam.
- Individual questions
The quiz feature in Lisam makes it possible to create a question bank organized in different categories. The idea is that each student can get a personalized exam with random questions from each category. This way, each student's exam will be unique. You can also create questions with different data, meaning that the question itself is the same, but the parameters will differ. Of course, this is very time consuming to create, so it might not be suitable in the current situation.
Tools for take-home exams
You can handle take-home exams using e-mail, if you like, but it is much simpler to use some of the functions available in Lisam for this particular purpose. You can find step-by-step instructions showing how teachers can set up assignments. Log in to Lisam, click on Lisam support in the menu to the left, then click on Teachers Manuals. Here we only give a short overview.
Here are some concrete tips for teachers about to use submissions instead of an ordinary written exam:
- Add students from previous years
The course room is only accessible to students from this year. Students that are retaking the exam needs to be added manually to the course room. This can be done by adding them to the Manual group in Members and Groups. The course administrator can get a list of students that signed up for an exam from the TAL system, or you can tell students from previous years to contact the examiner or the course administrator.
- Set up an anonymous submission
You can easily set up anonymous submissions. Simply choos the type Individual anonymous submission. This means that the submission will be anonymous, as soon as the first student submits. After that, students' names are replaces with random anonymous id:s, just like for ordinary written exams at LiU.
- Set starting and closing time
It is recommended to set the starting time of the submission to the starting time of the previously planned written exam. Before this time, the submission is not visisble at all for students. It is also recommended to set the deadline to the end of the planned exam. However, note that the deadline is not final. It is still possible to hand in after the deadline. This is actually a good thing, because students with special needs that are allowed to spend more time can hand in later. It is recommend to set the closing time to a few hours after the deadline to allow for students with special needs, and as a margin for problems.
- Answer with text documents
The submissions feature is designed to handle answers in the form of documents. If the exam requires students to answer using calculations, formulas or figures, it is recommended that the students write these on paper, takes a photo or scan them, and then insert these images into the document. Please note that it is not possible to submit files larger than 135 MB. It is recommended that images are scaled down, or that the answers are split into several smaller files.
- Send via Urkund
The submissions feature is fully integrated with the anti-plagiarism tool Urkund. With a few simple clicks, you can send all answers to Urkund for analysis. The result will be visible to teachers as percentages in a special column.
Lisam also has a quiz feature that can be used for take-home exams. There are a lot of possibilites with a quiz, but it takes a lot longer to create questions and to familiarize yourself with all the possible settings.
As stated above, teachers can create question banks that makes it possible for students to get randomized personal exams. A quiz can also have several different types of questions, e.g. self-correcting multiple choice questions. In a situation where a sit-in exam is being converted to a digital take-home exam, quiz might not be the first choice, but it can be interesting in the long run.
Direct links to Lisam manuals
These links may require login.
- Bengtsson, L. (2019) Take-Home Exams in Higher Education: A Systematic Review. Education Sciences. 2019;9(4):267 https://doi-org.e.bibl.liu.se/10.3390/educsci9040267
- Academia Meta StackExchange
- The Chronicle of Higher Education
Last updated: 2020-03-17