The Musical Chairs of Remote Testing
As time goes by and learning on campus doesn’t seem to be returning anytime soon, the question of exams begs our attention. While in theoretical courses, written exams are de rigueur and so there are no practical implications to physical location, the question of trust still remains. Will students manage to faithfully answer the exam questions despite easier access to forbidden material? Many professors have decided to cancel the end-of-year exams and substitute them for writing assignments or projects. Most of them have noted this solution isn’t ideal since it doesn’t examine the majority of material learned throughout the school year. It does, however, have the pedagogical benefit of inquiring and deepening the student’s knowledge of specific topics.
One creative teacher suggested using a group video conference to allow each student to present their main conclusions or insights derived while writing their assignment - the presentation would also be taken into account as part of the grade. The session was successful and offered students the opportunity to experience a presentation which (like any have experienced during this time) is very different from one conducted in front of a class.
In the practical side of music studies - performers and singers- digital exams pose a much bigger challenge.
The main difficulties are similar to those that have arisen in the context of remote learning and the usage of video (both online and offline) in general. However, the difficulty intensifies when taking into account the fact that performers’ exams are often conducted as recitals, in the form of concerts, which are extremely hard to convert into a digital experience. Many teachers have decided to solve this by sending students quality recording equipment, such as microphones and cameras. Some have decided to postpone the recitals and hold them at a later date in line with easing regulations and according to social distancing guidelines at the time. Others have decided to completely forego tests since they believe the many current challenges don’t allow grading students’ work in a way that fully reflects their abilities.
Room to Review
We’ve received positive feedback for remote digital testing in only one field: theory and keyboard harmony courses. One teacher told us that usually he’d have to rest students one by one, which proved to be very inefficient. Each student would have to sit at the piano, play several progressions and go, another student would replace him and so on until the class was over. The teacher never had enough time to examine the progress of all students and too much time would be spent on students replacing each other at the piano. The worst part, said the teacher, was that the rest of the students would get bored in the process. Many other professors identified and said that even in universities with keyboard labs, eliminating the need for students to sit at the piano one at a time, exams were still a challenge since one teacher had to split his attention span and time between many students.
The shift to online learning via video-conferencing caused not only the class format to change but also, and mostly, the testing process. Staff has made use of the split room function: With 2-3 students in each room, students would test each other throughout the duration of the exam, while the teacher would bounce between rooms and get updated on their progress. Teachers have noted that they succeeded in reviewing the work of more students in the same amount of time. This, of course, on top of the pedagogical benefit of students testing each other and learning in the process.
How does finals work at your school? Share your innovative ideas in the comment section.