Open Everything Exams

I just finished marking this semesters’ exams. I had tried something a little differently with my Astronomy class. It was a small class, and we’ve been experimenting with different things as we’ve gone along. For the final, I thought it would be interesting to give an ‘open everything’ exam. Notes, books, internet. If you have access to it, you can use it. I obtained a cart of netbooks for the exam, but many students brought their own laptops, and a few used their mobile devices.

A few interesting things happened.

  1. Students took way longer to do the exam than I thought. I think that they spent more time searching for answers, than they did actually putting down their answers. I think that they were looking for confirmation of what they already knew rather than trusting their knowledge and simply answering the question. It makes me think that I need to reconsider the format of this type of evaluation.
  2. Some students chose to hand-write answers rather than use the technology. Sometimes old-school is preferred for some tasks.
  3. I was simply using the tech as a substitute, and I need to consider better ways to ramp up the integration to make it more purposeful in that context.
  4. The reaction of the kids to the exam was the most interesting thng, and I think that as they’ve never had this kind of approach before that it will take time and more of this kind of thing before they get comfortable with the idea. Like I said, they relished the idea of using the internet, but they used it as a crutch rather than as an augmentation to their own abilities.
  5. The one thing that stood out, was that the students with the better tech skills were better able to transition to this kind of assessment, the ones that were not as strong in using tech approached it differently. Interesting.

Just a few things to consider for as I move on into next semester.


  1. laina · January 29, 2014

    learning is about taking risks; I applaud you for allowing students to share their 21st C learning skills!


  2. bgrasley · March 6, 2014

    That’s very, very interesting… I spoke this morning with an eLearning teacher who’s keeping 100% online summative tasks within a time limit. Not just to prevent cheating, but so that students use what they know instead of getting buried in the endless (yet fruitful) search.

    I think this highlights the need for teaching/learning about when the use of technology is helpful and when, as you say, it’s a crutch.

    I’m going to be teaching again next year, so I’m looking forward to the semester 2 reflection!


  3. Vito · May 8, 2014

    I would greatly appreciate a few minutes of your time to take an E-Leadership survey for one of my master’s courses by following the link below. I will be given 1 point of extra credit for every 5 completed surveys I am able to get taken by e-leaders NOT in Missouri. Two of the survey takers who complete the survey will be entered for a chance at one of two $50 gift cards (June drawing).


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