An interesting little story to come out of Canberra caught my eye this morning. Australian academics are going to co-ordinate a research project involving Finland, Singapore, Britain and Portugal that involves having interactive computer simulations instead of pen and paper exams.
A couple of interesting issues to come out of this. The head of the project, University of Melbourne’s Professor Barry McGaw says they will not only be changing the medium by which you sit an exam, but they are also looking at custom content for individuals. For example, a question might be asked of an individual, and depending on how they answer it will depend on the next question. So if you answer a simple question, the computer will then give you an harder one. Now, I assume that it will give an equally measurable performance of each student, so that the kid who answers more harder questions, gets the kudos that goes with that aspect of the exam. The professor believes current exams are too rigid to properly define individual ability. This might be true, but surely universities and employers need some sort of yard stick to measure the capabilities of an intellect. Also, this could possibly do away with cheating (as long as mini palms and mobiles are left at the door). There’ll be no more trying to find the exam in the teacher’s desk, because those taking the exam will have no idea what the questions will be due to the next question being decided by your previous answer.
Sounds like an interesting way of sitting exams. It will take the best part of three years to complete the study, so we’ll be hanging out for a while to get the results.