Lina Sidenhag, Teacher at Law Deparment, Umeå University
My name is Lina Sidenhag and I work as a lecturer at the Law Department at Umeå University. I am the teacher responsible for the introductory course on the law programme. I have been working here for almost 10 years and I like what I do mostly because I enjoy the interaction with the students but also because of the very open climate we have at our department.
The law department here at Umeå University uses a pedagogical method which means that the students work in groups and attend a number of seminars where they are to find the answers to various legal problems. The method is based on the idea that law is best learnt through practicing it rather than just listening or reading about it. The exams are based on the same idea, which means that the students are to solve problems where their answers are assessed not only by whether they use the right law and the right paragraph but also by how they e.g. build their arguments.The time for an exam is six hours and most students make use of that time, which means they write a lot and under time pressure. The answer to each question can be quite long.
We’ve been using DigiExam for five years, and it’s almost difficult to remember what the process looked like before that – but it was the traditional pen and paper. Prior to DigiExam, all the students took the exams with pen and paper. We have between 100 and 120 students taking every exam, and it wasn’t always easy to read the answers and understand the handwriting. The general feeling was that the grading process became very time consuming because of this. The Law Department was the first department at the University to use DigiExam, and it was within the course that I am responsible for. We have since started using DigiExam for every written exam in the Law Programme.
Overall the process of creating the exam is not that different than prior to DigiExam, at least not based on the routines that we have developed. I, as the responsible teacher, create the exam in DigiExam. My fellow teachers send me their questions and I simply copy these into the DigiExam. There are some extra steps compared to creating a paper exam, for example I have do add all students who will write the exam into the system, but it is easy and does not take long. When the exam is written we print the answers out, which means that the grading is not done through DigiExam.
The use of Digiexam has especially helped us when reading answers and grading since we no longer have to try to read answers written by hand under time pressure. As mentioned above the answers can be quite long and when written under pressure it is not always easy to understand the handwriting. As we can now read text written on the computer the grading is easier and does not have to take as long as earlier.
The students are also very pleased with the possibility to write the exam on their computer. They write for six hours, which can be quite challenging when writing by hand. Since one of the criteria for grading is the ability to make a legal argument the students also find it helpful that they can now edit their text. They have the time to read their answers and think about if the order of their paragraphs is correct. If they ́re not happy with their answer they can simply move text around.
In my opinion the use of DigiExam has helped us regarding those problems. My advice is therefore to go ahead and try it. There are, however, some tips along the way that I can give. First of all it will probably be helpful if you in advance discuss and decide how to divide the responsibilities for the different steps that are required throughout the process. We have found that the work with DigiExam runs smoothly when everybody knows who does what. I also think it ́s important that the teachers who are going to use DigiExam download the student client and try taking an exam as student, so that they know what the system looks like from the student perspective.
“I am not very good with computers, but even so I find it very easy to use DigiExam. There is no need for anyone to feel that it will be too hard or complicated.”
When using DigiExam I especially appreciate – apart from the fact that it is now easy to read the answers ‐ the possibility to print the exam in different ways. We can choose to print the complete exam for each student, or to print the answer from all students to each question separately.