Inspera Assessment, Digital Exams Launch – Presentation Recording

Inspera joined us via zoom for a presentation about the new Inspera Assessment software.

The presentation was delivered by Graeme Redshaw-Boxwell and Susan Barfield from the Learning and Teaching Development Service, who were joined by Suzanne Keys and Harvey Tayman from Inspera. Graeme and Susan discussed the journey Newcastle has taken with Digital Exams, why we are excited about the new software and what it will allow future digital exams to do. Suzanne and Harvey went on to demonstrate the assessment software, from a student and academics perspective.

This is the link to the recording from the session.

The following questions and answers were discussed during the sessions

I want to introduce a digital exam using Inspera, what can I do next? 

Digital exams for semester 1 are only available for modules that have this listed in their 2021-22 MOFS. If you wish to run a digital exam for 2022-23, when you complete your 2022-23 MOF select “PC Examination” for  the Assessment Component.  

If you are interested in running a digital exam in future and would like to find out more, please see our Digital Exams webpages, or contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk .  

We would like to pilot it on some modules, where do we start? 

Please see the  Digital Exams webpages for information on how to get started. I you have a semester 2 exam that you would like to turn into a digital exam, please email digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk to discuss. 

What capacity is there for digital exams with large cohorts?  
We have previously supported exams with over 400 students and it possible to manage large cohorts, although this may be over several venues. 

Can external examiners access? 

All Canvas users have access to Inspera. If your external examiner has been set up with a Canvas account, they can access Inspera. 

Can you download a copy of the exam paper? 

It is possible to download a PDF version of the exam. 

Can I download feedback 

It is possible to download students’ submissions, feedback annotations and marks as two separate PDFs. 

Can you use Turnitin to check for similarity on typed essay questions? 

Turnitin has been integrated into Inspera, so it possible to check a student’s submission for similarity. The Turnitin marking tools are not available, so it is not possible to use QuickMarks. 

How do we ensure the academic integrity of digital exams? 

It is possible to use a lock down browser on cluster room PCs and students’ own devices exam for digital exams. Ahead of the exam, the students will be asked to install the Safe Exam Browser software on their own laptop if it is bring your own device exam. To start the exam, they must run Safe Exam Browser, which will lock their PC from being able to access anything else. When they submit their exam and close lockdown browser, they can use laptop as normal.

It is not possible for a student to access an exam that requires use of Safe Exam Browser without using Safe Exam Browser. There are warnings in the monitor module if a student had tried to exit the lockdown browser. 

The Inspera Assessment, Digital Exam Launch will continue with two more sessions taking place in person on the 9th and 10th November, click for further details and to book a place

Inspera Assessment – Digital Exams Launch Events: 12 October, 9 and 10 November 2021

Typing on laptop

Inspera Assessment is the University’s new system for centrally supported digital exams. Academic colleagues, Professional Services colleagues and Postgraduate Students who teach are invited to Inspera Launch Events for live demonstrations, the chance to meet with our Inspera colleagues and to find out more from the Digital Assessment Service here at Newcastle. The events will showcase:

  • The student experience of taking a digital exam, and the tools they have available.  
  • Different question types including automatically marked questions, for example Multiple Choice, Fill in the Blank and Hot Spot questions. 
  • Essay questions- students can type their answers and incorporate drawings or written calculations into their online answers where needed.  
  • Setting up exams in Inspera and some of the key options available. 
  • Multiple ways to grade assessments so you can choose the best approach for your assessment.
  • How you can easily schedule an Inspera exam if you’d like to introduce this in your module. 

There will also be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

Following feedback from colleagues we have moved the in-person sessions to the 9 and 10 November. The online session will still take place on the 12 October.

View all sessions and sign up here

“The introduction of Inspera Assessment for digital exams is a big step forward for education, assessment and feedback at Newcastle University. This new system enables us to ensure digital exams are accessible to all our students, increases the University’s digital exam capacity in the long term and will play an important role in supporting more authentic assessment.” 

Professor Tom Ward , Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education

If you’d like to find out more about Inspera visit the Digital Exams with Inspera Assessment webpages.  There is also an Inspera Guidance Canvas course, simply click the link to self-enrol.  

If you have any questions about the launch events or Inspera Assessment, please email digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk

Authentic Assessment with Professor Tina Overton

Tina Overton

SAgE Faculty presentation on Authentic Assessment with Professor Tina Overton

Conversations about more authentic forms of assessment have proliferated of late, as Universities everywhere had to rethink assessment formats at short notice.

We are delighted and honoured that Professor Tina Overton has kindly agreed to work with the SAgE Faculty to help us examine how we currently think about assessment in STEM disciplines.

In this one-hour online session, Tina will share her experiences of implementing authentic assessment in Chemistry at Monash University, drawing from her distinguished career in STEM education.

A presentation will be followed by a Q&A session where you can raise issues of interest or concern about assessment in STEM subjects with Tina.

The session will be recorded and made available afterwards.

Time: Sep 15, 2021, 14:00 London

Colleagues can sign up here.

SAgE Faculty workshops on Authentic Assessment with Professor Tina Overton

In this one-hour online workshop, presented twice, Tina will encourage you to rethink your approach to assessment, to consider where you might already be providing authentic assessments, and to reflect on where and how you might want to do more in your programmes/modules. Supported by colleagues in LTDS, the session will be recorded and made available afterwards.

Workshop 1

Time: Sep 30, 2021 13:00-14:00 London.

Or Workshop 2

Time: Oct 4, 2021 13:00-14:00 London

Colleagues can sign up for either workshop here.

Biography: Professor Tina Overton

Tina was until recently Director of the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence, having previously been Distinguished Professor at Monash University where she successfully implemented large scale moves to active and context-based learning and authentic assessment in Chemistry. She has a 20 year plus track record in STEM education and is passionate about improving the student learning experience.

If you have any queries about these events please get in touch with LTDS@ncl.ac.uk

You might also be interested in other upcoming learning and teaching events and webinars.

Announcing the University’s new Digital Exam System: Inspera Assessment

In September 2021 we will be launching a new system for centrally supported digital exams, called Inspera Assessment. Implementing the system will enable the Digital Exam Service to: 

  • Deliver secure locked down present-in-person exams on University computers and students’ own laptops, monitored by University invigilators 
  • Ensure that digital exams are accessible to all our students, and enhance the student experience of exams 
  • Increase the University’s digital exam capacity in the long term 
  • Enable more authentic exams by introducing new functionality

New exam types possible with Inspera will include:  

  • Students taking written exams online, by typing their answers on computer, and incorporating drawings or written calculations done on paper into their online answers where needed. 
  • Allowing access to specific online resources or applications during a secure exam, using allow listing functionality. 

Introducing Inspera is a big step forward for education, assessment and feedback at Newcastle University.  Adopting a specialist digital exam system allows us to do much more than would be possible if we continued to use the Virtual Learning Environment for digital exams.

Choosing a digital exam system 

Inspera has been selected as our digital exam system following a rigorous procurement process, which began with requirements mapping workshops in February 2020, attended by over 60 academic and professional services staff.  The procurement was postponed for a year as a result of the global pandemic, and restarted in semester 2 2020/21 when colleagues had the opportunity to feed in any new or updated requirements via an online survey.   

Once the tender was issued key digital exams stakeholders contributed to a rigorous evaluation process to decide on the system that best fit our requirements.  Students and staff were invited to volunteer for usability testing in each system that met the mandatory technical requirements. The team are very grateful to the 36 colleagues, and 13 undergraduate and postgraduate students, who completed a total of approximately 150 hours of usability testing between them! 

Inspera scored the highest overall for both usability, and for technical and functional requirements. 

Rolling out Inspera 

As standard all 2021/22 modules that have a present-in-person digital exam in MOFS will use Inspera.  If the public health situation requires, it will be possible for these modules to use the system for open book take home exams.

Numbas maths assessment system remains an option digital exams that need specialist mathematics functionality.

The system will be available for additional new digital exams from 2022/23 onwards.  There will be opportunities in the coming months to see demonstrations of the software, and learn more about the new types of assessment that it makes possible.  If you would like to learn more now, please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk

How to get started  

The Digital Exams Service team will contact all 2021/22 module teams with a digital exam in their MOF at the beginning of September, with details of the process for preparing their exam. 

Training will also launch in September 2021, and all colleagues who will be using Inspera in the new academic year are encouraged to sign up.   

Online resources to help students prepare for a digital exam will be published in September, and students will also be able to try out a demo exam in Inspera to help familiarise themselves with the system. 

If you are interested in introducing a new digital exam using Inspera in future, or if you have any queries about a 2021/22 digital exam, please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk

Students: Have your say about digital exam software

Four students accessing electronic resources together

At Newcastle University we are choosing new software for students to take digital exams.  The exams will include auto-marked questions like multiple choice or fill in the blank, and written exams that you can take online.  Students will be able to use the software on their own laptops, or use university computers.  

The software we choose must be user friendly.  That’s why we’re inviting students to volunteer for usability testing.  Your input will be key in determining the software that students will use in the future at Newcastle. 

What’s usability testing and how can I get involved? 

  • Complete the testing online any time that suits you, between Monday 26 April 2021 and Friday 21 May 2021 
  • You need a computer connected to the internet 
  • You will be given login details, and a series of tasks to do in each system 
  • When you finish the tasks in each system, complete a survey about how user friendly it is  
  • You may need to install some software on your computer.  You can uninstall it when you’ve finished testing 
  • You will need to test up to 4 software systems.  Testing each one will take approximately 1 hour, and you can split the time up however you want, to fit your schedule 

Why take part? 

Sign up 

Complete this form by 12 noon on Wednesday 21 April 2021 to volunteer. 

You will receive further details when you sign up.  If you have any questions, please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk.   

Success at the International e-Assessment awards

The Newcastle University Digital Exams Service has won the Best use of Summative Assessment Award at the International e-Assessment Awards 2020
Delivering real improvements 

The winners were announced at an online awards ceremony on the 16 June. Finalists had been selected from a range of education sectors and the submissions included a number of exciting and creative projects and solutions. 

When announcing the award for the Best Use of Summative Assessment, the independent panel of judges praised the Digital Exams Service for demonstrating a high level of success, delivering at real scale and meeting a defined need. They also commented that the work on supporting accessibility was particularly noteworthy. 

Excellence and innovation 

Professor Suzanne Cholerton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education said: 

‘’I am extremely pleased that the hard work and dedication of colleagues has been recognised with this international award which represents a commitment to excellence, innovation and collaboration across the University.  


The Digital Exams Service has been successful in diversifying online exams with the introduction of digital written exams and a bring your own device approach.  This has enabled more authentic assessment and has enhanced the accessibility of exams for our students.’’ 

Collaboration 

The Digital Exams Service is founded on collaboration between academic and professional services colleagues in academic units across the institution, together with the Learning and Teaching Development Service, NUIT, and Exams and Awards Office. 

The e-Assessment awards 

The e-Assessment Awards programme holds a unique position, as it encompasses all sectors of education: from schools, through further and higher education to workplace training and professional exams. The Awards programme was launched in October 2016 to highlight and celebrate the outstanding and positive contributions that technology makes to all forms of assessment, and has gone on to showcase the best practice, research and innovation in the sector. Find out more about the awards and criteria on the e-Assessment Awards website. 

Digital exam system usability testing

Are you a member of academic or professional services staff interested in digital exams?

The digital exam system procurement process is going ahead as planned, and we are making adjustments to enable staff to participate in usability testing while remote working. 

We appreciate that this is a very busy time for colleagues across the University. However, it is necessary to go ahead with usability testing now to support the digital exam system procurement process.  If you are interested and have capacity to participate in usability testing your contribution will be very valuable. 

We are looking for volunteers to test digital exam systems, to help assess how user friendly each one is.  Testers’ feedback will be a key part of the evaluation stage of the tender process, and have a direct impact on which digital exam system the University introduces from next academic year.   

Usability testing is open to all University staff.  You can choose to test from the perspective of either: 

An exam administrator testing how to create exam settings, and manage marking and moderation processes.  Approximately 90 minutes per system. 

An academic testing how to create exam questions, and carry out marking and moderation.  Approximately 2 hours per system. 

To participate you need to commit to test all of the systems that meet the University’s mandatory requirements, which we estimate may be between 2 and 4 systems.  This is required to ensure that the evaluation process is fair, and we’ll be able to confirm the number of systems being tested the week before the testing begins.   

Full instructions and video demonstrations will be provided for each testing task. You can complete the testing tasks at any time that suits your schedule over the usability testing period from Monday 1 June to Monday 15 June. 

To register your interest in doing usability testing please complete this form by 12 noon on Tuesday 26 May 2020.  Please contact digital.exams@newcastle.ac.uk with any queries. 

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. 

August assessment period

Any exam deferrals and resits in the August assessment period will need to be completed/submitted in Canvas. The Blackboard license ends on July 31st and from that point no staff or students will be able to access that system.

Schools should adopt the same method of assessment that was used in Semester 2 for any resits/deferrals in the August assessment period. If a Blackboard test was used in the Semester 2 assessment period, then a Canvas quiz should be used in the August assessment period.

If you ran an OLAF exam in Semester 1 you can either deliver the resit using a Canvas quiz or a Turnitin submission.

Information and support is available via the Education Continuity webpages.

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. 

New Digital Learning Website

Student working on laptop

We are excited to announce the launch of a new Digital Learning website go.ncl.ac.uk/digitallearning

This new site brings together the digital learning activities taking place across the University, providing you with information, step by step guides and ideas to help you to get the most out of digital technologies for learning, teaching and assessment.  

Visit the site to find out about: 

Canvas– the University’s exciting new Virtual Learning Environment replacing Blackboard from 1st August 2020. Staff and students can find project updates, information about the support available, answers to FAQs and upcoming events. 

TEL Services, lots of information about our centrally supported technologies and systems, digital exams and access to TEL guides providing you with step by step instructions. 

Blended Learning, if you want to explore online educational materials and collaborative learning opportunities with traditional face-to-face delivery, visit these pages for inspiration and support. 

We will be continuing to update the site with resources so please let us know if there is anything else you would like to see that can support you in your role. Get in touch at LTDS@ncl.ac.uk

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”