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Successful online exam week with over 12,300 exam attempts

07/05/2020

WU decided not to cancel its large-scale exam week and made it possible for students to take their exams online.

At WU, course examinations are held during 3 centrally organized large-scale exam weeks that take place every semester. Despite the coronavirus situation and the organizational challenges involved, WU decided to go through with the exam week at the end of April, offering its students a large number of online exams.

Probably unprecedented number of online exam attempts

38 different exams were held online on WU’s LEARN platform last week. 20 of them included online exam supervision. This means that random checks were carried out by accessing the students’ computers to make sure that they were working on the exams independently and without outside help. In the largest exams, WU counted between 830 and 900 examinees. “There are probably only very few universities in Europe capable of holding exams and organizing exam supervision online on such a massive scale. Even commercial service providers usually only work with exam sizes of no more than a couple of hundred examinees. We managed to carry out an exam week with over 12,300 exam attempts. We can be very proud of this achievement,” says WU Rector Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger.

Successful pilot project, but on-campus exams remain the preferred option

Overall, the online exams worked very well. However, with such large numbers of examinees taking their exams online at the same time, some minor problems, part of them outside the university’s control, are unavoidable, for example network or server failures. One exam had to be repeated on the next day due to such problems. Starting this week, WU will be holding further online exams on LEARN on a regular basis. “The online exam week was a pilot project for us, providing many valuable insights and takeaways that will allow us to implement further improvements for the next exam week. WU has shown that it is possible to organize online exams with thousands of participants. But all things considered, we still prefer on-campus exams, and we’re looking forward to resuming our normal operations,” says Rector Hanappi-Egger. “Our main goal with the online exams was to allow students to complete their courses to make sure that they don’t lose any ECTS credits and that they can move forward in their programs.” The next exam week is scheduled for June. WU expects to see a significant increase in the number of exams and exam attempts. 

Hundreds of people involved in the organization of online exams

Even under normal circumstances, organizing a large-scale exam week is a huge (logistic) challenge because of the large numbers of examinees involved. In times of the coronavirus, the complexity and amount of work involved in this task reaches a completely new dimension. Over a period of 4 weeks, over 100 people worked together to make the online exam week a success, from faculty members to programmers, student support staff, and legal experts.
WU students are used to working with online services. WU’s eLearning platform LEARN was already launched in 2001. LEARN is an invaluable help for students, especially during the introductory and orientation phase in the bachelor’s programs and when preparing for exams.

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