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User spotlight: “I feel like I’m able to give better, more specific feedback”

Last month we had the chance to chat with user Lauren Vargas, a high school history teacher. Lauren had been working to make her classroom completely paperless and wanted to find a digital assessment option, which allowed her students to complete quizzes, tests and assignments more securely. In just one school year, Lauren has created 24 different exams and received over 550 hand-ins from her students.


Lauren Vargas is a high school history teacher outside of San Francisco, California. She has experience teaching in a wide variety of school settings and has worked with students from differing backgrounds. Lauren began teaching at a small school in Texas, where students had very limited access to technology at home. She then moved to a boarding school environment where technology was constantly accessible for the students. The school she’s currently teaching at is a day school that has implemented a 1:1 device program. Younger students each have their own iPad, while older students have laptop computers.  


Lauren had been working to make her classroom completely paperless, which led her to explore options for more secure digital assessments options. She particularly wanted to find something that would lock her students device, so they were unable to access outside resources and the internet while completing assessments. Her technology director, Peter, began to search for and evaluate different assessments platforms. DigiExam ended up checking off many of the components they were searching for. Lauren began piloting DigiExam in August of 2016. In just one school year, she’s created 24 different exams and has received over 550 hand-ins from her students.


Getting started with DigiExam was fairly simple. Lauren and Peter participated in a one hour, online workshop, which walked them through the basics of the DigiExam platform. Now that she has set up her classes and created some exams, Lauren already sees how DigiExam can save her time and is particularly looking forward to next school year.


“Next year, it will be nearly effortless and I’ll be able to easily re-use the assessments and questions already created.”


So far, Lauren has primarily been using DigiExam for in class quizzes and assignments. She loves that she has the capability to attach sources directly to the questions so that the students have the image or source they need right in front of them, rather than having to navigate back and forth between different windows.  One of DigiExam’s more recent feature updates, open-book mode, has also been helpful in Lauren’s classroom. Open-book mode allows students to complete assessments or assignments within DigiExam, but still access outside resources. This has opened up a whole new use case. Students can now complete writing assignments that require research and pull in information from outside sources simultaneously.  Looking ahead, Lauren would like to begin using DigiExam for take home assessments as well.


The transition to DigiExam was simple for the the students as well.  Lauren had students complete a practice assessment before in order to make sure they had worked out all logistics and to give students the opportunity to become familiar with the new program. Students felt that DigiExam was clean and easy-to-use. As a matter of fact, it only took the one practice exam for them to feel prepared and comfortable. Lauren’s students also appreciate how DigiExam has changed their assessments process.  As Lauren shared,


“For many students typing is very important, so the students definitely appreciate it.  It’s faster for them, easier for them to revise their work, and they have the option to use spellcheck.”


Some students actually prefer working in DigiExam so much, that they have started to push other teachers at the school to make the switch. Not only has DigiExam been making the assessment process more efficient but Lauren feels it’s giving students a valuable lesson in stress management, too. DigiExam gives her the option to provide her students with more choice. They now have more opportunities to pick the environment and space they feel most comfortable in to complete their assignments, which is important for both the teachers and students.


So, what has been the best part about transitioning to digital assessment with DigiExam? Her answer was simple: speed of grading.


“I’m able to grade so much faster and I’m able to type my comments much faster.  I actually feel like I’m now able to give better and more specific feedback because of it.”


Lauren hopes that the Crystal Springs will continue to provide these valuable technology opportunities to their students.  In the meantime, she and her students will continue to enjoy their paperless classroom.