Category Archives: Assessment

Transition to the Digital Exams Service: A Timeline

Following our October 2019 post introducing the digital exam service, we have a progress update and some news about what’s happening next.  Centrally supported digital exam provision (including the OLAF Service, and the Diversifying online exam provision project) is being combined into a single service, and we are reviewing our requirements ready to tender for a system that meets our needs. 

February 2020 

Requirement Mapping Workshops will be taking place. The outcomes of these sessions will help to inform the requirements that we will take to system providers.  All academic and professional services staff with an interest in digital exams are invited to contribute.  Please sign up via the link to have your say! 

March 2020 

Tender for digital exam system (30-35 days response time). A set of final requirements will be issued. 

April – May 2020 

Scoring of tender submissions against requirements will take place alongside user testing of software that meets our mandatory requirements.  Look out for updates about how to get involved. 

June  July 2020 

A provider will be awarded the contract to supply a digital exam system to the University.  

Following this, work will be undertaken to move as much of existing digital exam questions and content into the new system as is possible. 

August 2020 

The new system will be vigorously tested and integrated with University systems. User guidance and training for all stakeholder will be developed. 

Note that August resit exams will need to be taken on paper. If an exam ran in Blackboard or WISEflow the resit will need to take place on paper. This is in part to prevent students having to use a different system to take an August from the one used for the main exam, and in part because testing and implementation of the new system will not have been completed by the resit period. 

September 2020 

Digital Exam Service launches with new software – OLAF is no more. 

All digital exams previously taken in both Blackboard as part of the OLAF service and in WISEflow as part of the Diversifying Online Exam Provision project will be delivered using the chosen software. 

Training will be offered to all academic and professional services staff involved in delivering digital exams, and briefing information will be available for students. 

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.

Continue reading Introducing the digital exams service

Blackboard Essential Update – Saturday 16th December 2017

Blackboard Downtime

On Saturday 16th December Blackboard will be unavailable between 8am and 5pm in order to install a critical update.

Why is this necessary?

Bug Fixes

Firstly the update will fix many system bugs including notifications of discussion board posts and a Grade Centre scroll bar fix where the scroll bar obscures a Grade Centre column.

Change to Blackboard Assignment Feature

Blackboard has two assignment handling features: Turnitin and Blackboard assignments. The Blackboard assignment tool uses third party software licensed by Blackboard which enables assignments to be viewed and graded online and this will no longer be available from 15th January 2018. A replacement document viewer and online grading tool will be available following the Blackboard update.

Once the update is completed on the 16th December, you won’t notice any changes to the Blackboard assignment feature. We can make the decision when to change to the new tool up until the 15th January. We plan on moving to the new tool w/c 8th January and we will communicate an exact date prior to then.

Turnitin assignments remain unaffected so if you use Turnitin assignments rather than Blackboard Assignments then this change will not affect you.

What changes can I expect?

When we move to the new document viewer and online marking tool all assignments using Blackboard Assignments will switch over to the new interface. Any annotations carried out using the old grading tool will be burned in to the document and will no longer be editable. You can make additional annotations on the assignments if necessary. New assignments created will use the new viewer and marking interface.

There are some changes in functionality:

  • The new assignment feature will have much better support for file types and fonts
  • It includes the option to print the assignment
  • It no longer supports free hand drawing
  • Assignments can no longer be downloaded with annotations and comments displayed. Blackboard are reviewing this functionality.

We will keep you updated about this over the coming weeks but please note this DOES NOT affect Turnitin assignments.

Any questions about this please contact LTDS@ncl.ac.uk.