If one looks at the balance of this year's exam period at WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management in the Bachelor in International Business Administration and the Master of Science programs, outsiders might get the impression that the school could have gained experience with online exams some time ago. But this was by no means the case. Not only did the coronavirus mean that teaching had to be moved from classroom to home at short notice in the middle of the term, but the exams for the Bachelor and Master programs at the end of the term also had to be taken from home. Especially for graded certificates of achievement, this brought with it special requirements: the online exams had to be comparable and fair, just like the in-person exams of previous years, and it had to be possible to rule out fraud using a software. Furthermore, it had to be taken into account that many of the students live in different time zones.
Despite the relatively short preparation time for such a far-reaching technical change, WHU's Examination Office draws a positive balance, with a few minor exceptions. "Our Center of Digitalization has already been doing preliminary work for years. This has now paid off. Thanks to its support and that of the IT department, we were able to convert the exams to a digital format in a very short time, and the students were able to take almost all their exams within the planned timeframe," explains Lea Rimmer, coordinator of the Bachelor and Master programs. "Digitization is a complex and gradual process, but in recent weeks we have reached a new stage. Now we have to evaluate the experience we have gained and further expand and optimize the online process". Irmgard Puth from the Examinations Office is also pleased about the success of the initial run: "If you consider the lead time of only a few weeks and the complexity, it is amazing how well the exam period went overall".
Instead of the planned exams on campus, the Examination Office had to find alternatives for face-to-face course assessments: tasks that had to be completed simultaneously (e.g., video presentations or oral exams) or at different times (e.g., case studies or essays), homework with time limits that were not monitored, and exams at home that were monitored by software. The learning management system "proctorio" was used. This system allows the automatic supervision of the examinee during the exams and an identity-check of the student. Besides, students had to leave their laptop's camera and microphone switched on during the exams and show the room via webcam before the exams to rule out help.
Nearly all the exams could be completed on time. "For the first pure online exam period, it worked surprisingly well. This was due to the very good support provided by our IT department, the program management of the Bachelor and Master programs, and the video team," explains Stefanie Berrang from the Examination Office. Minor technical incidents could not be avoided but did not pose insoluble problems. Only two examination dates could not take place as originally planned, because they should have been taken during the first week of the corona closures on the Vallendar campus. A good solution was quickly found.
A particular challenge arose from the fact that the emerging coronavirus often caused foreign students to return abruptly to their countries of origin, but they still had to take the exams - sometimes even in quarantine. "A thousand details had to be considered," says Irmgard Puth, describing the situation. "For example, we had to find a time to allow students from Australia to California to take their respective exams simultaneously and at the most acceptable local times of day."
The students, who were always at the center of all considerations when the formats were changed, were satisfied with the relatively spontaneous change of the examination period. "There were one or two problems, but they could always be solved quickly," confirms Stefanie Berrang. "The students agreed that WHU has a great advantage over other schools and universities in Germany when it comes to digitization."
Read more about how other WHU departments managed the current situation: