Educator Michal Černý about Online Examination: We Should Not Be Afraid to Make Contact with Students

The university is currently preparing the most effective solutions for online exam provision. We have talked with RNDr. Michal Černý, a teacher at the Department of Information Studies and Librarianship at the Faculty of Arts, about the advantages and disadvantages of distance examination and why not to be afraid of this form.

27 Apr 2020 Filip Opálka

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Distance examination through video can be associated with a lot of technical and other problems. Is it worth trying at all?

I think so. First of all, we have several readily available solutions at the university, which we can use for examinations - from Adobe Connect through Zoom to MS Teams, which is currently the university's preferred option. Technically, there is nothing to fear. Moreover, it looks that even primary school teachers have dealt with examinations through technologies, so there is no reason to think that it would be something too demanding or inaccessible at the university level. And if you don't know what to do, you can ask. I consider this as an intense moment in the current situation. Maybe more than ever, we need each other, and we can help each other. This need and help allow us to understand the university as a living interconnected organism.

Why do not use the written form of exams?

There is another important dimension to why you should want to try online exams, not just a test or an essay. It is a meeting with a living person. Certainly, it is not as physically and socially close as in classical exams, but it is still essential. It is a dialogue in which we can meet and get to know each other. This meeting of faces, as Levinas would say, is the basis for building a relationship that gives the university meaning and legitimacy. At the same time, it makes a difference between a situation when we offer a student a training course and a situation when we "throw" a book at him to learn what he needs by himself.

But what if a problem occurs? The connection is lost, something does not work…

The current situation is extraordinary for everyone - we all have to learn, gain new experiences, experiment. And if something goes wrong, I think students are willing to forgive. We return to that relationship again. If students see interest and departure from the teacher's comfort zone, the teacher's effort to invest his/her time in them - then the fact that they waited longer for exams or something had to be done more than twice, students will undoubtedly forgive.

And maybe they can be the first to be there for advice. This is not meant to say that we should do not try and prepare; do not test the functionality of the solutions. The purpose of examination through video is not only to test knowledge and skills but also to go beyond social distance, make contact, activate collective thinking, and to share situations. Paradoxically, perhaps even a possible technical problem, can help to start this meeting.

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Can students cheat? 

Sure, they can. And there's probably no way to stop them. At the same time, almost every educator, who is used to examine students, can ask questions in such a way to find out whether the student is reading the answers or he is thinking for himself. Again we are returning to Levinas - if the examination is a meeting of two faces that see each other, share their emotions and expressions; then, in the dialogue, the teacher can easily find out what the student really knows. Moreover, in the case of diploma theses, we are never sure that the student is writing it alone. The only thing we can rely on is trust in the relationship with him and regular dialogue between the leader and the graduate.

Whenever I examine, I remember the words of Martin Černohorský - both the student and the examiner must leave the exam wiser. At the same time, it is the last chance for the examinee to learn something new. And in such a view, perhaps even cheating does not make sense. The individual debate is irreplaceable and beautiful in this regard. I think it's great that we don't have to lose it thanks to technologies.

How to test in a written form, for example, when there are too many students?

What is offered for you is the usage of IS MU tools - ropots. These allow you to work with classic closed questions (selection of options, assignment, completion of tasks), as well as the use of open questions. There are relatively standardized procedures that will help teachers to create tests.

However, in the context of the current situation, I would like to mention two important options for written exams. First of all, it is the possibility of student mutual evaluation - if it is possible, and it makes sense, the mutual feedback of students is interesting and refreshing. Even the students themselves have to rethink when evaluating the work of the others, reflect on a different procedure, and give feedback. This is an important step in the learning process. The IS also remembers the mutual feedback, even if only through the so-called "odovzdavarna".

The second note is related to the first one. If we have to make a standard test, which we will correct by ourselves or automatically, let's think about whether this process can not be associated with some formative component. With something that tells the student how he is doing - and at the same time supports him in further work. Don't be afraid to have a ready bank of answers, which you only vary according to the result in the test. If it sounds personal (for example, by being addressed by name), it is a clear and distinct helper for the student in further work. And it won't take that much extra time.

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RNDr. Michal Černý

Graduate of Physics and Informatics Teaching for Secondary Schools, currently also a doctoral student of Social Pedagogy at PedF MUNI. Since 2012, he has been working at the Department of Information Studies and Librarianship at Faculty of Arts, MUNI, where he deals with the issue of technologies in education. In this area, he is the author of more than a dozen books and several review, popularization, and research articles, mainly in the field of the relationship between technology and pedagogy or subject didactics.

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