Award-winning Birmingham City University on digital exams and Digiexam

Niklas Borgström
Niklas Borgström

The University is keen on students being able to take their exams from home, and the associated flexibility this offers them. However, home-exams increase the difficulty of ensuring academic misconduct (especially those using a closed-book format). Moreover, several courses have exams with specific Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) requirements governing minimum invigilation requirements.

As the University continues to pursue a remote assessment strategy for all courses, confidence in the systems we use to support exam integrity is vital.  

Maggie Gibson
Head of Learner Development 

The solution

Our service offers a hybrid model, where if a student does not have an appropriate device or place to work from home, they can take their exam on campus. However, the majority choose to take their exams from home. Digiexam has allowed us to satisfy course PSRB requirements through its online proctoring functionality, and ensure parity between those taking their exams on campus and from home. Moreover, we have found the platform highly intuitive and we also have resources to help students install and use the software, however, the majority require little guidance. The staff has also expressed that marking on the system is simple and quick.

For some exams, we use Digiexam as a proctoring shell, where the student is invigilated whilst taking their assessment on Moodle. This is usually where there are numerous files involved, and the student may need to use other software such as Microsoft Excel. Other exams take place entirely on Digiexam.

The result and impact

Digiexam has enabled us to offer students the ability to take exams from home whilst ensuring academic integrity and parity with those on campus. What we have found particularly useful is the chat function, where invigilators and students can send messages to each other. If we are suspicious that a student has materials that they should not, we send them a message. If a student has any questions then they can message us.

  • Where academic misconduct has been detected, there is video evidence of this.

  • A two-way chat function ensures that any students having difficulties are able to message an invigilator.

  • If a student’s internet connection stops, they are able to carry on with their exam. If they still do not have an internet connection at the end of the exam, they can download their paper as an encrypted file to a USB device and send it to us at a later time.

  • We also like the fact that automatic warnings are sent to students if AI picks up on anything suspicious (such as background noise).

  • Many students have expressed that they are more comfortable taking their exams in their home environment. This has enabled students to take their exams anywhere in the country, and not have to be concerned about commuting to campus on the day of their exam.

What are your top recommendations to institutions that are thinking of implementing a solution for online examination?

Make a practice attempt on the system (even if it involves some unrelated questions) and strongly encourage students to make use of this. This means that any issues that a student might experience during the exam are known, and can be remedied, before their summative assessment.

If you are using online proctoring, consult with your organization’s legal team early on to put in place the necessary processes. We require that students sign an online consent form for their biometric data to be collected for proctoring purposes, and any students who do not agree to this are invited to campus to be invigilated in-person. We also regularly request for biometric data to be deleted by Digiexam.

Some students will not have the appropriate equipment to take their exams online. Have an idea of what you will do for this small number of students (for example inviting them to campus or lending them equipment).

How did you handle the procurement for online examination and what are your key tips for other universities?

We liaised with the procurement team within our institution so as to make sure all relevant regulations were met during the process.

Our advice is to start with a list of everything you need from an online assessment system and be as clear as possible about what this involves. For example, “online invigilation” can mean anything from the occasional photo being taken from the student’s webcam to a constant stream from their webcam, screen and microphone.

Medium-stakes vs High-stakes - what was your reasoning behind that?

The reasoning behind this was about managing resources (both financial and staff). High-stakes exams are those that have Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRB) oversight, and normally require a constant stream of the student’s webcam, microphone and screen. Medium stakes involve using a system where the occasional photo is taken of the student (to make sure it is them taking the exam and provide some deterrence to misconduct). The former takes more time and costs more.