Electronic Exams

electronic exams

Watch video on electronic examination by Steve Blackburn

This talk will discuss an experiment with a large scale electronic examination. 

Pen and paper exams are the staple of examinations at institutions like ANU, however the pen-and-paper modality has a number of significant shortcomings: 

  1. It is pedagogically limiting; evaluating the students in a setting often unlike the environment in which the teaching and learning occurs, denying access to tools that may be fundamental to the subject matter;
  2. It does not lend itself well to large classes and the possibility of auto-grading;
  3. student handwriting can be very hard to read!  

Electronic exams address these concerns and create a number of opportunities in the design of the exam and in the marking process. The Research School of Computer Science has been using electronic exams for over a decade, using a flexible and robust system of locked-down computers.   However, the systems used at the Research School of Computer Science were tailored towards computing courses and are did not include a generic, straightforward and accessible framework in which the exam itself could be conducted.   Moodle also provides means for running exams, but has a number of open challenges relating to security and robustness in an exam setting.   This semester I built a browser-based electronic exam that is flexible, amenable to other disciplines and content, is designed to look familiar and easy to use, is client-side (not requiring connectivity to a server) and is usable in any operating system that supports a modern web browser. 

In this talk I will discuss the various factors that motivated the design of this electronic exam, its applicability to other disciplines, challenges and opportunities ahead, and the outcome of using the system in a large (>200) first year class in the Semester 2 2015 examination period.   You can see a sample of the exam here (https://cs.anu.edu.au/courses/comp1110/sample-exam/1110-exam.html).  

This talk will be targeted to a broad audience and I will ensure that there is plenty of time for discussion among attendees.


Steve Blackburn


Steve Blackburn is a professor in the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University.  His research interests include programming language implementation, architecture, and performance analysis.  He teaches a large introductory computer science course and has an active interest in computer science curriculum reform.   Steve co-leads the Mu micro virtual machine project and has been heavily involved in two other major research infrastructure projects; the DaCapo benchmark suite and Jikes RVM.

Date & time

1–2pm 3 December 2015


Room:N101 Seminar Room

Internal speakers

Professor Steve Blackburn



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