April 24, 2006
ExamSoft No Mo'
April 24, 2006 11:19 PM
Last year, I sang the praises of ExamSoft. Now the law school is doing away with ExamSoft and instead allowing students to simply use a Word file. Perfect! Except we can't use electronic versions of our notes or outlines unless permitted to do so. My question is why aren't we permitted to do so? Is there a point beyond which the honor code cannot be stretched?
I expect as the school gets more comfortable with the system, the rules will become more flexible. My school has been using this same method--Word documents burned onto a disk and turned in--for a number of years. But each professor can say what he or she will allow as far as accessing electronic materials, there's no institutional restriction. So, for this semester, I have two exams which will allow me to access anything I want at all, and use the Find function, but I can't cut-and-paste from any other document into my exam document. Conversely, the other two exams allow me to use my computer only as a typewriter--no outline on the screen, no find function, nothing.
As I've been taking old exams, I see that the latter restrictions are becoming less common. Faculty become more comfortable with the technology as they see how few problems do arise. (All of this only applies to open-book exams. Accessing outlines on your computer during a limited-use exam presents an honor code problem, I think.)
My school has gone the opposite direction. We started using word files, burned to CD, and then printed or turned in. Then we got ExamSoft.
The main reason? One of the 1L's used word's "auto replace" feature to make some cryptic string like /~torts~battery~! turn into a long, wordy discussion of battery. From what I understand, they used it for almost every class, making it possible to pre-write much of the work they expected to see on the exam.
Of course, honor code being what it is, they were punished and allowed to continue, while other students who legitimately tried and just didn't do well, eventually were drummed out for having a GPA lower than 2.1.