Category Archives: Digital Exams Service

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

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

OLAF Service Capacity

Due to the success of the OLAF service and the capacity to support online exams across LTDS, Exams and Awards and NUIT, the service is currently not available to support new online exams for fewer than 30 students during the assessment periods.  New exams for more than 30 students will go onto a waiting list and be considered based on student numbers, with exams with highest numbers of students being prioritised.

Outside the formal exam period there is no capacity for additional in semester assessments, however The OLAF Service will continue to support all online exams that have previously used the service.

Resit exams  cannot be supported through the OLAF service if there are less than 15 students, the OLAF service will not be available for these exams. The exams could still be run through Blackboard, although this would be without the use of the locked down browser or the University invigilators. Staff can utilise self-help resources well in advance of the resit assessment periods if they wish to run the exam online themselves.

Technology Enhanced Learning Drop-in Semester 2

Academic and professional services colleagues: Have you got a question about a particular learning technology? Do you want to find out if technology can enhance an existing teaching and learning activity? Do you have a great idea and want to know if technology can help you deliver it?

There is no need to book, just turn up and our learning enhancement and technology advisers will be on hand to help you. No question is too small!

Come along on:
Tuesday 5 March
12:00-14:00
USB Atrium

If you can’t make this one, don’t worry,  there will be more over the next few months at locations across campus. Further details will be published here.

If your questions relates to School (or Faculty) specific software we may not be able to help, but we hope we can signpost you to the correct support.

Any questions? Get in touch ltds@ncl.ac.uk

Technology Enhanced Learning Drop-ins

Academic and professional services colleagues: Have you got a question about a particular learning technology? Do you want to find out if technology can enhance an existing teaching and learning activity? Do you have a great idea and want to know if technology can help you deliver it?

There is no need to book, just turn up and our learning enhancement and technology advisers will be on hand to help you. No question is too small!

Come along on:
Wednesday 5 December
12:00-14:00
Courtyard entrance, Old Library Building

No need to book, just turn up on the day.

If you can’t make this one, don’t worry,  there will be more over the next few months at locations across campus. Further details will be published here.

If your questions relates to School (or Faculty) specific software we may not be able to help, but we hope we can signpost you to the correct support.

Any questions? Get in touch ltds@ncl.ac.uk