Open-book exams in Trinity term 2021

Welcome to the staff webpage for Trinity term 2021 (TT21) open-book exams. This will be your single source of information and resources for this year’s Trinity term online open-book exams. Currently, it contains information which you may already know about, but we will be keeping this page updated over the coming weeks to help you stay up-to-date.  

We are partnering with Inspera Assessment, a leading European e-assessment provider, to introduce Inspera as our new platform for all online open-book exams (from TT21) and online coursework submissions (during the academic year 21-22). This webpage provides an update on our plans for online open-book exams; more information about coursework submissions will be communicated at a later stage.

All students due to sit online open-book exams in Trinity term 2021 will do so using Inspera, instead of WebLearn.

Why Inspera?

We (the e-Assessment project Board) have chosen Inspera because it best meets the diverse needs of Oxford students and staff, now and in the future. For students, Inspera offers a better exam experience with a more intuitive digital interface designed for higher education settings. For staff, Inspera’s enhanced features and tools will integrate with existing systems to support setting up and administering exams.

Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division has already been using Inspera for many of their online closed-book exams since 2018. Whilst, for continuity, they will carry on using Inspera in a slightly different way (the way questions are set up) for their closed-book exams, they, too, will use Inspera for their open-book exams from TT21.

How will Inspera help change exams in TT?

To start with this year, to minimise the amount of change for exam boards in what has already been a disruptive year, the University has decided to introduce a simple implementation of Inspera in TT21. Accordingly, in TT21 exam boards should not see any major changes to current open-book exams processes such as paper setting (still provided as a PDF), and distribution of questions and papers to markers. Using this simple model in TT21 will still offer some new benefits including continuous saving of candidate work for typed responses; removing the need for additional technical time for fully typed responses; a count-down timer to help candidates manage their time; and other features such as word count.

In addition, there will be better integration with existing systems such as SITS, EAP, and CMIS (our exam timetabling system), resulting in less duplication of data entry effort, and better data quality.

Using Inspera in future years

In the longer-term, Inspera forms part of the University’s strategic objective of providing more diverse and inclusive assessment options. Whilst we are keeping things straightforward in TT21, in future years, we would like to make use of a more sophisticated range of Inspera functionality for those Exam Boards that are interested in continuing to offer online examinations, thus realising the full potential of online assessment.  For example, this might include the question authoring process, the use of question banks, and online marking of exams.

Here is some essential information to help you prepare for this year’s TT open-book examinations.

Modes of completion

Each department course team has been asked to contact their students to confirm the format (Mode of Completion) of their online exams in Trinity term: either Typed, Handwritten, or Mixed Mode. This is because students will use Inspera slightly differently depending on what they are expected to do in each specific exam. For example, if the exam board wants students to predominantly type their answers, but also attach a hand-drawn graph, sketch, or formula, then they would inform their students that the mode of completion for that exam would be Mixed Mode.

On their exam day, students will need to submit their exam response in the mode determined by their exam board, as follows:

  1. Typed Mode: Answers fully typed in Inspera
  2. Handwritten Mode: Answers fully handwritten, scanned, and uploaded into Inspera
  3. Mixed Mode: Answers mainly typed in Inspera with additional handwritten elements, e.g., graphs, formulae, which they will scan and upload into Inspera. This mode may also be appropriate where a response is typed outside Inspera (using a word-processing programme) due to language or technical requirements (e.g. special characters), and then converted and uploaded into Inspera.

Alternative modes of completion - If a student has a disability or medical condition which means they need an alternative mode of completion, they will be able to apply for this via their college through the exam adjustments processup to 31 March 2021 (beyond the usual HT Week 4 exam adjustment deadline for mode of completion requests, given the newness of the policy and the exam platform).

Additional technical time to upload handwritten modes of completion

If the mode of completion for their online exams is Handwritten Mode (fully handwritten answers) or Mixed Mode (mainly typed with handwritten elements), students will have an additional 30-minutes of ‘technical time’ built into their overall exam time. This means they can scan and upload their exam response material, either as they go along for each question (for Mixed Mode responses), or at the end of their exam time (for fully Handwritten Mode responses). Technical time will not be necessary for Typed Mode (fully typed exam answers), as students will type their response directly into Inspera and the system will automatically save their work as they type, every 15-seconds.

The following exam adjustments will be applied automatically for online open-book exams in Inspera in TT21 (for exams up to 3hrs 15min duration), continuing the current approach for exams in Weblearn and based on the recommended extra writing and rest time durations from DAS and medical practitioners:

  • An additional hour for all candidates entitled to up to 25% extra rest and/or writing time
  • A default exam duration of 8 hours for any candidates entitled to greater adjustments (beyond 25% extra rest and/or writing time)

An enhanced model of individualised exam adjustments will be explored for exams via Inspera in the 2021-22 academic year. For candidates sitting longer duration exams (e.g. the 8-hour online exam being set by the English Faculty in TT21) it should not routinely be necessary to have individualised exam adjustments, as for most disabled students this longer duration would be enough accommodation. Applications for further exam adjustments would still be considered on a case by case basis if necessary.

Please note that the deadline has now passed for applications for TT21 exam adjustments, so the provisions above will apply to adjustments already approved. Further guidance on exam adjustments for online exams in TT21 will be made available via the staff webpage for TT exams.

Exam start-time policy

As last year, we will have an exam start-time policy in place so that students sitting online exams in time zones far from the UK can do their exams during daytime hours. Full details will be published in the student user guide. A link will be added when the student webpage is published.

Late penalties

A revised policy on late submission for online open-book exam responses is in place for TT21 and departments have been asked to make sure this is up-to-date in their examination conventions. Late penalties only apply to handwritten and mixed-mode responses as typed responses are automatically submitted.

Policy and guidance updates

The Examinations and Assessments Framework (EAF) details the University's policy relating to University Examinations and assessment practices for undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses. It aligns with and expands on the Examination Regulations. It also provides more detailed guidance in relation to specific processes – including online open-book exams using Inspera. It is of relevance for examiners and all other staff involved in University Examinations and assessment. Any further changes the EAF will be cascaded via Divisions to departments and faculties.

Pilots and early adopters

In Hilary term, there will be different exam arrangements for some cohorts sitting specific papers. The relevant staff and students are being engaged directly to avoid confusion.

In addition, some staff and students in specific cohorts in Oriental Studies and Chemistry, will also be early adopters of Inspera in HT.

Student focus group

It’s always crucial to hear what real users think of new technology. That’s why we’re working with Oxford Student Union to ask some students to 'test-drive' Inspera by sitting demo exams and testing key areas of functionality and tell us about their experience. Input from these students will help us to fine-tune the guidance we provide for all students in time for their TT exams.

The e-Assessment project team and the Exams and Assessments team are working directly with relevant colleagues in departments and colleges to help them see (e.g. through live demos) how they and students will be using Inspera.

Alongside this, students have a new open-book exams webpage for Trinity term Exams; this will act as their single source of information. Guidance for those students sitting exams in Hilary term (in WebLearn) will still be available on the current open-book exams website and students will be signposted to the specific term’s exams based on when they’re sitting their exams.

Here is an outline of some upcoming activities that will help to ensure we provide staff and students with a thorough understanding of the platform:

For staff:

  • Live system demos from early February: departments, colleges, and chairs of examiners (mop-up demo sessions will be arranged as necessary)
  • Training videos from late-February
  • Other training (where needed for specific tasks) from late-February
  • Guides, e.g. infographics, from early March

For students:

  • A dedicated new webpage for TT21 open-book exams from 8 February
  • Students will be able to get exam-ready with hands-on access to demo exams so they can become familiar with Inspera and its features and functions, from late-February onwards
  • They can take the demo exam as many times as they like. Although the demo exams will not include a subject-specific mock exam paper or past paper, students will be able to practise all the core functionality they’ll need for their real exams
  • We will make available (on the new student new webpage) an Inspera User Guide for students with step-by-step guidance on how they can login, use, and take exams in Inspera
  • Full technical support (IT helpdesk) will be available for students before and on their exam days

If you would like to discuss any of this, please contact Jenny Roberts (Exams & Assessments team), Rachel Dearlove (Policy), or the e-Assessment project team (Inspera).