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Digital Open-book exam – a flexible option?

Image showing book

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The pandemic has made us test alternatives to our traditional exam methods, alternatives that work digitally and on remote. Some of these alternatives are worth keeping also when we head back to traditional, on campus, teaching.

One thing we have learned the past years is that remote surveillance is problematic (no guarantee it works 100%) and limiting students’ access to information to zero during the exam is next to impossible when using digital exams off campus. Rethinking exam methods is a way forward and digital open-book exams may be a good option.

The open book alternative

Open-book exams allow the students access to information from their literature, notes and could also include internet access. As a result, concern for students’ cheating may be limited to cooperation among students and the surveillance of students then becomes less of an issue. Using Urkund to check the students’ answers can then help to spot “copy paste” text and if students have copied each other’s answers.

As in all cases of open-book exams your questions need to be focused on reasoning rather than definitions and right or wrong answers. Students should not be able to google the right answer. Another issue to keep in mind is that to take advantage of the automatic screening of the text in Urkund the students must answer by uploading a document - Word documents or PDFs. If you want the students to provide their own hand-drawn figures or flow charts they can scan or photograph them and upload as separate documents or insert in a document together with text.

Read more 

Tips for Creating Open Book Exams:

Designing open-book exams:


By: Christoffer Johansson, Biology


This article was first published during the pandemic and has since been adjusted and updated to fit the post-pandemic situation.