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Project 5-100 Universities Harness Cutting-Edge Technology to Run Spring Semester Finals Online

July 7, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused almost all higher education activities to go online. Luckily for students and teachers, state-of-the-art technology has enabled universities to complete this shift without compromising the quality of learning – or testing.

Now, holding final exams online is a formidable undertaking that involves a lot of issues, from choosing and installing the right technology to preventing cheating. Project 5-100 universities have risen to the challenge and are ready to share their all-but-unique experiences.

The Saint Petersburg-based ITMO University used its tried-and-trusted in-house ITMOProctor system to administer distance exams. The system, which runs two apps, the invigilators and the test-takers, records and monitors students' exam behavior and physiological state as well as taking screenshots of their desktops, to prevent misconduct and rule violation.

NUST MISIS was enabled to hold its spring semester finals on schedule, between May 25 and June 30, by its Digital MISIS model. Routinely used to implement IT solutions across the university, it had made possible a quick transition to online examination formats. Graduate dissertations were defended via MS Teams which students and staff accessed through a corporate account, while State Examination Committee members put digital, rather than pen-and-ink, signatures.

At St Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU), all final-year students took their spring semester finals remotely in May. A number of undergraduate finals and tests were also administered online, with students earning certificates for completing web-based educational programs on the National Open Education Platform. The university went for batch testing and one-on-one student-teacher conferences as the most convenient testing formats. Also, final-year assessments, known as final state certifications, were conducted remotely, via LMS Moodle, with MS Teams used for teamwork assignments.

Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU), too, ran its spring finals on schedule, holding pre-examination conferences from June 15 to June 20 and the exams from June 22 to June 27. In addition to allowing students and teachers to stay safe, this arrangement helped faculty and staff members to acquire new competencies. They learned how to use remote proctoring, connect and disconnect students, switch monitors to view tests or written assignments, fill out grade books online, and assign tasks simultaneously to multiple students. The webinars were held via Zoom, BigBlueButton, and Webex.

Siberian Federal University (SibFU) students took their spring term exams according to individual schedules. Some of them are now doing their summer internships, while others are sitting for their finals or preparing to defend their theses. Although a novelty, the students and teachers took the web-based tests in their stride. The test-takers were asked to complete an assignment remotely, or have an online conference with a teacher, or both, in which case the conference followed the assignment. Three solutions were used to support these formats: SibFU's own webinar and videoconferencing tool, external web conferencing software (Zoom, MS Teams, Webex), and video chat apps.

The coronavirus-induced crisis has set higher education institutions looking for new ways to transfer and test knowledge. And while the pandemic will eventually subside, universities will continue using the innovative technological and teaching solutions they have developed, possibly incorporating them already into 2020 admission exams. According to the Russian Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, the recent 'stress test' of this country's higher education system has yielded valuable results. Speaking at a meeting of the ministry's Public Council, he said: “Our joint goal now is to draw on the lessons learned and the experience gained during the pandemic to create a new operating model for institutions to pursue in a changing world. I am confident that the academic and research community working together with our ministry will be up to this challenge.” (Source: https://minobrnauki.gov.ru/ru/press-center/card/?id_4=2777 ).