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I am the course leader for a course with more than 600 students. This semester, I decided to conduct our end-of-semester quiz as a computer-based quiz using our school's learning management system. We needed to reserve multiple computer lab rooms due to the fact that the maximum capacity of a lab room is about 80 students.

Unfortunately, we had always used a paper-based quiz in the past, and it was the first time that we had ever used computer-based quiz, so things did not go as smoothly as we would have liked.

We had requested that the students should show up to the quiz venue 10 minutes early. This would give them time to turn on the computers and to log in to the quiz using a special browser (Respondus LockDown Browser) rather than the regular Internet Explorer browser. Unfortunately, our instructions to the invigilators and the students were not clear enough, so even though most of the students showed up to the quiz venue 10 minutes early as requested. The invigilators did not make clear to the students how to log into the computers and into the quiz, so many of the students started the quiz 5-10 minutes late.

I attempted to communicate with the invigilators to give the students 5 additional minutes to complete the quiz. Unfortunately, due to miscommunication, some of the invigilators ended the quiz on time (so the students in their session had 50-55 minutes); whereas some of the invigilators gave the students extra time (so the students in their session had close to 60 minutes).

After the quiz was over, some of the students who received 50-55 minutes complained to me that they were disadvantaged because they had less time to complete the quiz than other students. It may or may not have been the student's fault if he or she had less time for the quiz.

  • For some of these students, they had less time because they arrived late (which is their fault)
  • For other students, they arrived on time. However, because their computers booted up slowly, or the invigilators did not make it clear how to open the correct browser and how to start the quiz, they started their quiz late by ~5 minutes (this could have been avoided with better planning on our part).

Questions:

  1. How should I respond to these student's complaints?
  2. Is there anything that I should do to "fix" the situation?

Currently, I feel that the quiz was mostly fair to the students. I am able to see in the learning management system that fewer than 0.1% of the questions were not answered, which means that 99.9% of the questions were submitted properly. So although some students who had more time had the benefit of double-checking their answers, for the most part even students who only had 50 minutes had enough time to complete all of the questions.

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    Can you explain whether the students were treated equally? It seems they were in some aspects of your question, whereas elsewhere it seems they weren't. – user2768 Dec 5 '17 at 13:21
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    In my reading of this, students who were on time and followed instructions got the full time; those who were late or did things like opening the wrong browser did not. Then there was an attempt to correct for this by allowing extra time, but, due to confusion, not all students who were late or failed to follow the instructions got the extra time. Is that a fair summary? – Bob Brown Dec 5 '17 at 13:28
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    @user2768 I completely rewrote my question to make things more clear. The students were not treated equally in the sense that some students had more time than other students, even if two students arrived at the same time. The time they had depended on which room they were assigned to, and whether the invigilator helped them to get start the quiz on time, and whether the invigilator ended the quiz on time or gave them a few extra minutes because they started late. – I Like to Code Dec 5 '17 at 15:02
  • @BobBrown I completely rewrote my question to make things more clear. Students started late, depending on when they arrived, whether the invigilators' instructions were clear, whether the students were able to follow the instructions, and crucially whether the invigilator ended the quiz on time or gave them a few extra minutes because they started late. So students in some rooms had almost a full 60 minutes, but students in other rooms had around 52 minutes. – I Like to Code Dec 5 '17 at 15:04
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    I think you start by looking to see if there is a statistical relationship between room assignment and how well students did on the quiz. If the score distribution is different, then you should be more inclined to correct. I would do so based on room, not individual students. – Dawn Dec 5 '17 at 15:37
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In my experience as an Academic Tutor at my University I frequently administer similar online tests. These tests make up a cornerstone of the topic and as such should be fair and consistent to all students. One difference that we have is we administer our tests over the duration of the week (in standard tutorial sessions) instead of everyone at once.

Note my University uses 'Moodle' as our software.

Now in terms of ensuring it is fair to all students we require the test to be done on campus in a designated computer lab. This ensures that all students can be monitored/invigilated appropriately. The tests that we use also include a timer within them. These timers are set as static for all students, though it does allow us to specify extra time for particular students (non-english speakers etc..) The final thing we do is set a password on the test. This password is changed after each tutorial session (the tutor/invigilator changes it). This means that we can administer the same test across multiple sessions Each student needs the password to access the test, and by changing it we ensure that students cannot go home and do the test and cannot tell another student at home the password and allow them to cheat.

Another policy you may find appropriate is a closed door policy. The rule I use is if the test has started you do not come in. You are late and you have therefore missed your opportunity to do the test. In the 'real' world being late could end in you being fired or worse. Therefore I expect all students to be on time. If they are late they may petition the topic co-ordinator with their excuse, if and only if the excuse is valid will they be permitted to sit the test 1 on 1 with a tutor. A closed door policy should be set up as follows:

  • Open exam room (10/15 min before exam)
  • Close the doors (5 min before exam)
  • Give pre-test speech
  • Start test (on time)
  • Conclude test

Any students who attempt to come in once the doors are closed should not be allowed in.

Finally some tips for invigilating tests/exams I recommend having a single point of reference for all students. For me I have a LCD at the front of the room which I can put notes on. It may be worthwhile printing out notes for your students. My notes will typically state the following:

  • When the test will open/begin (Time)
  • How to request assistance.
  • Any specific requests/procedures.
  • What to do when they are finished.
  • etc... The password will be given out at the start of the test, with invigilators on hand to help students with entering the password (especially if it is complicated)

Lastly I recommend making sure that everyone is listening during the pre-test speech. Publicly call out students that are talking if necessary, but make sure everyone is listening. Then there can be no complaints they did not know the rules.

I believe your approach is spot on. It seems to me that the students were late due to their own fault, and therefore should be left as is.

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    "I believe your approach is spot on. It seems to me that the students were late due to their own fault, and therefore should be left as is." Seems to ignore "[some] students...arrived on time. However...they started their quiz late by ~5 minutes (this could have been avoided with better planning on our part)." – user2768 Dec 5 '17 at 17:42
  • Thank you Reid for your answer. Indeed, the procedure used by your institution (e.g., a password for the test, a closed-door policy, printed instructions) are good ideas that we will use the next time that we have a similar quiz. – I Like to Code Dec 6 '17 at 15:13
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I believe there are a lot of circumstances that have to factor in to the decision, but to me, the most important initial detail is, do you have any way of reliably tracking whose time was cut short and who had the full time allotted? If not, it's going to be hard to analyze and correct the situation.

I'm assuming that, since it was a quiz, it's not a huge factor in their grade, so what I might do is either renormalize the grading or pro-rate it. Basically, if the quiz was supposed to take 60 minutes, and the most any students were shorted (by no fault of their own) was 10 minutes (still less than 20%), then the new baseline can be considered to be 50 minutes, or 83% of the original time.

To renormalize, multiply every student's grade by 1.2. For students over the new 100% mark, you could give extra credit or simply cap the score at 100%.

Or you can do a quick-and-dirty pro-rate by adding 17% to everybody's score, again, either up to a maximum of 100% or going over and giving extra credit.

I realize you have a huge class, which also implies you have a lot of early-undergrad students who might raise a bigger stink, but in my academic career, I've seen plenty of ex post facto shifting because of logistics, especially when a prof or the school is rolling out a new technological approach.

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