Students could be allowed to use computers in exams

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A SCOTS university is considering allowing students to use their own laptops in exams.

Senior officials at Edinburgh University say that it is unfair to expect students to use pen and paper in exams when the majority of their coursework is done on a computer.

Divinity students can already use their own computers in exams and now it is being considered across all other subjects.

But the university said that safeguards would need to be in place to prevent cheating.

Dai Hounsell, professor of higher education at the university and vice-principal for academic enhancement, said:

“We’ve got to look at alternatives to the handwritten exam.

“Looking ahead ten years from now, I’m not sure there will be any long handwritten answers in exams in certain subjects, but how we get there from here isn’t easy.

“The scheme doesn’t apply so much to science or engineering subjects where students have to use complicated diagrams and mathematical formulae. There isn’t technology at the moment to allow them to do that via computer. “

He added that the approval of students was key before anything was implemented.

He said:

“We don’t want to put student’s futures at risk by experimenting, as there are technical things which can go wrong. There could be a power failure. “

Edinburgh University already has the facilities to allow a small number of students to use computers during exams.

Undergraduates at the School of Divinity have the option of using laptops with their final answers being collected using a USB stick.

But the take-up stands at less than 10 per cent.

Nora Mogey, head of learning services at the university, said:

“A lot of students are not yet confident enough to make that step in a high-stakes exam situation.

“They don’t feel they’ve had enough practice in writing on a computer with a time limit in a high-pressure environment, and say they think better with a pen in their hand than they do at a keyboard. “

Jennifer Cadiz, depute president at NUS Scotland, said:

“It’s great to see universities recognising that times have changed and students do now work differently.

“Exams can be a really stressful time for students and offering the flexibility to complete exams in the way that works best for them will undoubtedly help. “

No other major Scottish universities have plans to follow in Edinburgh’s footsteps and the Scottish Qualifications Authority said it has no plans to roll them out on a general basis.

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