Adapt examinations

The following recommendations have been prepared by representatives from Umeå University and will apply in the immediate future, while restrictions on campus visitations are active.

Some points are inspired by, or taken from the councils at Uppsala University and Chalmers University of Technology. These recommendations are not complicated, but are not quickly implemented and requires some work to be done. Keeping in mind, however, is that the more time you spend adjusting your examination formats and occasions, the more legally certain your examination will be and the better the study situation for the students will be.

Initial recommendations for all teachers

  • Learn more about personal data processing when teaching and examining remotely.
  • Read through your syllabus and consider what flexibility you have as a teacher regarding the examination parts. That is, what alternative exams can you choose without departing from the syllabus?
  • Communicate this with colleagues and the director of studies to ensure that you are thinking correctly in your interpretation of the syllabus.
  • As soon as possible, inform students of any changes to the examination formats and what this means for them. Be clear in your communication with the students.

Documentation of alternative examination format

Note that if the department decides on an alternative examination format that deviates from the syllabus, in accordance with the Vice-Chancellor's decision FS 3.1.4-667-20, this should be documented and recorded. The purpose of the deviation from course syllabus is to prevent further spreading of COVID-19 and the motivation should include the keyword Covid-19.

Guide and template for deviations from course syllabi

Guide and template for deviations from a programme syllabus and postponing a course instance

Recommendations for written (sit-in) examinations

Firstly: The examination can be held on campus as long as the Public Health Agency of Sweden's and other authorities' directives and general advice are observed. Examinations should be held with regards to the Vice-Chancellor's decision FS 1.1-1062-20, where it, for instance, says: "To the extent possible, large crowds of students must be avoided in examination halls, and the maximum number of 50 people in each hall must not be exceeded. The distance between seats in examination halls must be increased where necessary."

Secondly: If the examination cannot be held on campus, convert sit-in examinations to home-based exams and follow common home exam guidelines, such as those formulated by Lund University (link in Swedish).

  • Keep in mind that the home-based exam is a different form of assessment than the sit-in exam. Avoid exam questions where the answer can be easily searched on Google or otherwise quickly searched for in the course literature or other course material. Instead, formulate questions so that students need to demonstrate their understanding of the course content in their own words.
  • The more you require the student to write in each home-based exam question, the greater freedom the student has in their respective answers and the more important it is that you know how will assess the answer later. Therefore, spend a good deal of time on the instructions in the question and on the assessment instructions. Also, make sure that the assessment instructions match the instructions so that you can assess the students' responses to the terms you have set for the students in the instructions.
  • Developing instructions and assessment instructions for examination forms is not a job for a single person to do, but is best done in groups. Ask colleagues or other people to read through your instructions and assessment instructions and provide feedback on what seems clear and not.

Thirdly: If you cannot convert the sit-in exam to home-based or hold it on campus, you can instead administer it through the built-in exam tools in Cambro (Test and quiz) or Moodle (Quiz), but students can take it from home or from any other place. However, this means that accordance with regulations cannot be fully guaranteed and should therefore be avoided as far as possible. (However, the tools are very useful in formative assessment, where the students' results are not graded, but instead aim to help them develop their own learning.) If this is still done, remind the students one more time about the seriousness of cheating on an examination and that it can lead to disciplinary action. Technical solutions for increased legal certainty in such situations exist but impose requirements on students who are considered unreasonable with the short notice that now applies. Instead, these solutions should be examined in more detail for possible long-term implementation.

If you implement this measure, you should avoid shortening the testing time (even if you think that shorter times reduce the risk of cheating) because you will then measure students' quick thinking, writing ability and ability to perform under pressure to a greater extent than intended, instead of the knowledge linked to the course's expected study results (which are what you should measure). Therefore, try to allow just enough time that no or very few students need to feel pressed on time, but at the same time not so long that it is easy to cheat. Each situation is unique so there are no rules of thumb or templates for how long "just enough" time is, but here you need to use your professional judgment as a teacher on the course.

Recommendations for seminars

These can advantageously be implemented via Zoom. Familiarise yourself with the students with Zoom and with the support of UPL's guides and introductory courses. Regarding concerns about Zoom linked to GDPR or the Camera Surveillance Act in connection with examination, the university lawyers at Umeå University say as follows:

When Zoom is used for education and for examining students, the University has a legal basis for the processing of personal data (general interest). Personal data will be processed in Zoom in the form of Umu ID, name, role and email, and for this there is a personal data access agreement for the service with SUNET. The only thing to keep in mind when using Zoom is that you should not process sensitive personal data or confidential information (for example, in the chat room). Therefore, GDPR does not impede the use, but students should be informed that personal data is processed. This can be done by referring to this page. The Camera Surveillance Act is not deemed applicable as this requires a permanent and regular surveillance of persons. However, a recording of the students in their home environment is deemed a violation against the Data Protection regulation.

Recommendation for practical examinations

All practical examinations can be held as long as they follow the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Sweden and other authorities.

Recommendations for placements or internships (VFU)

VFU will continue if the head allows it and if it is possible to give supervision.

Read more about teacher students and VFU (in Swedish)

Read more about VFU in healthcare (in Swedish)

Recommendations for degree projects

Consider if alternative forms of examination can be carried out where physical presence on the university's premises is not necessary. However, examination that requires attendance on the university's premises is exempted from the Vice-Chancellor's decision, taken 17 March 2020 due to the spread of coronavirus disease covid-19 (Dnr: FS 1.1-677-20).

Read more (in Swedish): Covid-19 and its effects on degree projects etc.

Recommendations for students with adaptation needs

Identify the adaptation that applies to the new examination format and offer it instead. For example, extended testing time periods for home-based exams, offer the opportunity for the student to give oral answers instead of written ones, or for the student to use special software for speech synthesis to comply with instructions and questionnaires.

Reminder to students about cheating and plagiarism

Be certain to remind students of what cheating, unauthorised help and plagiarism mean, and of course this also applies for home-based exams. Also, remind about the seriousness of cheating, and that it leads to disciplinary action such as suspension.

Remind the students that the examination should be conducted individually, i.e. that collaboration is not permitted and that plagiarism controls will be carried out, for example through Urkund.

General advice regarding examinations and test development

  • Always ask for relevant knowledge/skills/abilities. Ensure the constructive link, that is, each question/assignment in your examination (and the exam as a whole), really measures what is stated in the expected study results and what you have been teaching. Linked to this: ensure that your teaching and the parts of the course literature that you explicitly instructed students to take part in (either orally or in writing) actually are enough to answer the questions or assignments in the exam. Revise exam questions if necessary.
  • Link each examination to a specific intended course learning outcome (FSR). Ensure that all FSRs for the course are examined and that all examinations are linked to at least one FSR.
  • If an examination is linked to more than one specific FSR, connect the different parts of the examination (different parts/questions/sub-questions/instructions) to a specific FSR each so that it is clear to you and to other teachers/examiners how each FSR for the course are tested, and that nothing in addition to the FSR is tested.
  • Adapt the assessment method by category on FSR.
  1. Preferably, consider the FSR in the Knowledge and Understanding category with short answer questions or closed-ended questions (such as multiple-choice questions) to cover as much of the FSR as possible. If they are assessed with long-answer questions, that is, where students have to write a lot of text, try to keep the answer length as short as possible so that you do not measure their analytical, reasoning or valuation ability (these should be measured in the Valuation and approach category).
  2. Assess the FSR in the Skills and Ability category with practical assignments, that is, assignments where students must demonstrate the intended skill, whatever it may be, instead of merely demonstrating knowledge of the skill. Note that a practical skill can still be about the ability to produce something on paper (i.e. an argumentative text, a drawing, or a planning), which must then also be measured in writing, for example through a home-based exam.
  3. Preferably evaluate the FSR in the category Valuation and approach with long-answer questions, either orally (i.e. with seminars) or in writing (i.e. essays and the like), since reasoning and valuing ability cannot basically be assessed with closed-ended questions or short answer questions.
  • Keep the language in the exam as simple as possible.
  1. Adapt the choice of wording and grammar based on the students' level. Avoid difficult words and "heavy" terminology (unless explicitly measured in the exam).
  2. Avoid negatives (asking for something NOT). If negatives are still to be included, clearly mark them in bold and uppercase.
  3. Avoid unnecessary text that only serves as window dressing, but does not add anything to the question or understanding of the instructions. Such text only takes time and energy from the student without giving you more information about their knowledge, and is especially troublesome for language impaired students. Window dressing should not be confused with the fact that some questions may need a relevant context to be answered. Similarly, if the exam is intended to measure information retrieval, distracting information is a must.
  • Do not try to trick. Avoid trick questions or questions that are intended to mislead the student. All such questions contribute to identifying which students see the trick, not which students actually possess the knowledge you are asking for. Instead, ask straight out and what it is you want answers to.
  • Avoid two questions in one. If you want to know more than one thing in a particular question, divide it into sub-questions (a. b. and c...) so that it becomes clear to the student exactly what you want the answer to.
  • Do not ask for opinions if there is a clearly correct answer. Avoid questions like "What do you think ..." "How would you ..." unless it is explicitly the student's reasoning or argument you want to measure, based on the expected study results.
  • Create clear assessment instructions. Be certain you know how to assess your exam through clear correction templates and assessment instructions with relevant criteria and information about what is required for different grade levels or points. Furthermore, double check that the criteria in your assessment instructions are relevant based on the FSR. Skipping assessment instructions and instead going on a "gut feeling" in the assessment is a serious threat to the legal certainty - absolutely do not go on gut feeling.
  • Attach your assessment instructions to the assignment. Double check that everything that is in your assessment instructions that you should assess, is also clearly stated to the student in instructions for the assignment or exam question. Otherwise, it is very easy for the student to respond in a manner that is reasonable based on the instructions, but not at all what you would have thought based on your assessment instructions.
  • If you have multiple-choice questions or other closed-ended questions - randomize the order of the questions so that not all students receive them in the same order. The same applies to the alternatives for multiple-choice questions.

Decisions by the vice-chancellor regarding covid-19

Hanna Karlsson