Introducing the digital exams service

Building on the solid foundations of OLAF provision, and the successful first 2 years of the Diversifying and Expanding Online Exam Provision project, the University’s Technology Enhanced Learning Sub-Committee have approved the launch of a new combined Digital Exams service.

The story so far …

Newcastle University’s Online Assessment and Feedback (OLAF) Service has been running high stakes secure online exams using Blackboard’s test tool since 2007/08. The 13 years since that first exam have seen OLAF come of age, supported by well-established institutional processes that ensured all 132 OLAF exams in 2018/19 went smoothly.

In 2017/18 the Diversifying and Expanding Online Exam Provision project was launched, and the first of some new types of digital exams were piloted using software called WISEflow. Bring Your Own Device was introduced, enabling students to use their own laptops to sit a secure digital exam. Alongside this, moving essay and long written answer exam questions from paper to online has also become possible for the first time.

Diversifying online exam provision in 2018/19

A total of 12 WISEflow pilot exams were successfully run in 2018/19 academic year, including:

  • 5 BYOD exams, the largest for a cohort of 92 students
  • 5 exams with a typed essay/long written answer component (2 that used BYOD), and 1 fully essay/long written answer-based exam
  • 5 exams that used new question types not available in Blackboard
  • 1 exam that used whitelisting to make an online tool available for students to use during a locked down exam (find out more about whitelisting)

Combined Digital Exams service

Combining digital exam provision will ensure a more consistent experience for students and staff, provide a single point of contact for all central digital exams support, and make it possible to streamline our processes.

What does this mean for my exam?


During 2019/20 existing OLAF exams will continue to be delivered using Blackboard. The pilot licence for WISEflow has been extended for this academic year, and all exams that have piloted the software so far will be able to use it again. More new pilot exams will also be introduced, and Bring Your Own Device will be the default for any WISEflow exam with up to 260 students.

2020/21 and beyond

As part of streamlining digital exams provision LTDS will investigate the feasibility of moving all online summative exams into one system from 2020/21. This may be the new VLE Canvas, WISEflow, or a yet to be identified system.

Look out for further updates coming soon!

Get in touch

The contact email for Digital Exams is Get in touch if you have any questions.

This replaces the old OLAF admin email address, but don’t worry if you forget as any emails sent to the old address will be redirected.

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