Third session of online exams: assessing the situation

Institutional Communication Service

8 February 2021

The Winter 2021 session is completed, confirming that the decision made months ago to conduct the exams remotely was the right one. The session was made possible by digital technologies and by an extensive organisational effort. Let us take stock with some facts and figures.

Everything went well, despite the complicated context. The winter session 2021, has been held with the three examination modalities we became acquainted with during this year of COVID pandemic: "open book", oral and quiz. Significant effort and resources were invested by USI - in particular by the eLab, the Dean's Offices, and IT Services - to guarantee the smooth functioning of the exam platforms and texting modalities adeguate to the context. All of this has, of course, the ultimate goal of assessing students' learning and evaluating them correctly.

Some figures: during this last session 166 exams were held in Quiz or Assignment mode, supported by eLab, while video surveillance, when provided, was guaranteed by the Deans, faculty and assistants.

Oral exams were also taken, with over 150 sessions and peaks of 13 simultaneous exams coordinated by IT Service. For each oral exam, the student was greeted by an IT technician, who verified that the connection was adequate. Once the tech verification was done, students were let "in" to the exam session with the faculty.

As predictable, there were some small glitches (e.g. dropped links, use of unsupported browsers, forgotten passwords...); however, they were all solved during the sessions themselves.

"I am very pleased with the ability of the faculty to adapt the format of the exams to the online context. The services did an outstanding job in providing timely technical and pedagogical support and in solving problems within minutes. Still, it should be noted, it remains an exceptional and in many circumstances less than optimal situation. For example, the sense of loneliness and the fear that something could go technically 'wrong' were, at least for some students, a reason for more stress. We hope to soon be able to carry out teaching activities, or at least part of them, in presence" - observed Lorenzo Cantoni, Pro-rector for Education and Students' Experience.

"USI has proven - commented Rector Boas Erez - that it is able to remain faithful to its mission even in this scenario. The exam procedures have proved to be valid and have allowed everyone to continue on their academic path without slowing down or gaps in their education. I have to thank the staff for making this possible."  

Courses for the spring semester will begin on 22 February 2021, under the motto "on campus if and as much as possible, online as much as necessary" (federal authorities have not yet announced when the obligation to carry out university teaching activities online will end).

The full interview featuring Pro-rector Lorenzo Cantoni on Corriere del Ticino is available here (in Italian).

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