The Impact of Online Exams on the Quality of Distance Learners' Exam and Exam Revision Experience: Perspectives from The Open University UK




online exams, conventional exams, revising for exams, student perceptions, assessment experience, anxiety, age, gender, exam rooms, distance learning


This paper reports findings from a research study at The Open University, UK into the quality of distance learners’ online exam experience and the differences in experience between online (pandemic) and in-person (pre-pandemic) modes of examination. Our research responds to the ongoing need for greater insight into the exam experience and is uniquely positioned in two ways. First, we made use of a robust reference dataset collected before the COVID-19 pandemic and compared this with a second survey administered a year after the pandemic started; second, we asked students about their experience preparing and revising for the exam as well as the exam itself. Exam revision represents an important transitional period for learners. Our results show that, overall, the shift to online remote exams did not impact the quality of distance learners’ experience of revising for exams or taking the exam itself. We found no significant change in the revision experience across six of eight measures, including the learning benefits of learning while revising, enjoyment, and support. However, students reported feeling less anxious when revising for online exams. The quality of the exam experience itself was largely unaffected by the move from in-person to online remote exams. No significant differences were found for seven of the nine measures of exam experience. However, we found satisfaction with the exam environment was significantly higher for online exams and that learners felt the online exam was harder than they expected. Age and gender differences are also explored.  


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