Whitelock, Denise and Raw, Yvonne
(2003). Taking an electronic mathematics examination from home: what the students think.
In: Constantinou, C and Zacharia, Z eds.
New technologies and their applications in education.
Nicosia, Cyprus: Department of Educational Sciences, University of Cyprus, pp. 701–713.
The Open University’s Science department produced a short course in Mathematics. Its aim was to assist science
undergraduates in obtaining the key skills required in order to progress through higher level science modules. This
course lasted ten weeks. Prompt feedback about the examination results was of prime importance, in order that
students may make informed choices about future science module selection. The urgency of posting these
examination results prompted the development of the compulsory examinable component being delivered online,
via a website. This in itself is not novel, but what is innovative, is the fact that students were given feedback if
they could not solve the problems. Making use of this feedback resulted in marks being deducted. For example, if
a question was answered immediately correctly then full marks were awarded. If the question was answered using
only one lot of feedback, then one mark was deducted and so on. Altogether only three lots of feedback were
permitted per question. This paper discusses the findings from both questionnaires and telephone interviews
conducted with the first tranche of students who sat the electronic examination. The students’ perceptions of the
examination process were analysed, together with their usage of the feedback support system. The usability and
upload time for submission is also reported. These factors are also discussed with respect to interface and question
design, together with the feedback structure. These findings will assist the construction of a set of
recommendations regarding the development of electronic examination systems. More importantly, if electronic
examinations are to be used for distance education students, then the nature of the feedback given to students about their actions in such environments deserves careful consideration.
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