Following the announcement last week that the country's universities and colleges will be closed to reduce the spread of infection, the premises have been largely empty at Luleå University of Technology. At the same time, the staff went into a hectic period, to say the least.
“A giant challenge”
– We suddenly found ourselves in a situation where we had to solve a lot of questions about distance tuition and examination, says Niklas Lehto.
One of the first decisions made by the university management was to postpone the exam period one week, in order to work out new routines.
– At our institution there are 1800 students who will write exams for the next ten days, in about 30 courses. It is a huge challenge to make it work practically, says Niklas Lehto.
He himself has some experience of the subject after participating in projects that worked with future distance education and exams - but going from pilot project to sharp operations in the course of days is difficult, he says.
– Of course, challenges arise. The first and biggest is perhaps that there are no tools adapted for a distance examination situation. We will use Zoom, which is really a lecture tool, says Niklas Lehto.
When the exams start, students will first of all upload a picture of their identification credentials to test equipment and prove their identity in the next stage. The exam supervisor starts by checking that the identity is correct, and continues to ask the student to show his workspace with the help of the camera. Then the exam itself starts.
– They will write in hour-long blocks. After an hour, there will be a break to fulfill any needs, and then the exam will continue. Normally everything is done in a lecture hall without these breaks, says Niklas Lehto.
Throughout the exam, a number of supervisors ensure that everything is handled according to the rules. For example, they can ask the student to stop writing and show off their workspace. The picture should show the student's mouth so that one can be sure that no communication is taking place. In total, each supervisor will be monitoring 25 students remotely.
The reactions of staff and students have been reasonable.
– This information was distributed to about 1800 students last week, and we have received about ten questions from students. Both staff and students understand that this is a very special situation, but there are some question marks, says Niklas Lehto.
Some wonder what to do if they do not have a computer, others ask if the university can really supervise them in their home environment, and others have wondered how to solve a situation where two cohabitants study the same course.
– The questions are justified, and we have no clear answers really. In this situation, it is important to try to be pragmatic and solve situations that arise in the best possible way, says Niklas Lehto.
After the exam period, the next challenge will come immediately, when the teaching will be run completely online. Something staff is already working on.
– The staff really makes a heroic effort to make this work, says Niklas Lehto.