Providing valid and reliable assessment in an online and collaborative environment

Moving away from a school environment where collaborating considered to be cheating

In 2012 I wore an article for KQED “For exams, is using the internet considered cheating?”.  That was because Norway had just opened up for the use of the internet during exams in some chosen subjects. I wrote in the article;

The world is constantly changing and keeping up with even the most important new content is difficult. Imagine writing about global challenges like famine, drought or global warming without being able to look up any information (these are topics likely to be addressed in the exam). Instead of barring the Internet, students should be taught how to filter the information, judge its credibility, and use it to build logical arguments and greater understanding. If communication and collaboration are valued 21st-century skills, it will not be possible to hone these skills unless exams are changed in radical ways. KQED

This was in 2012, and since then a lot has changed. Because we started working online with digital tools on a large scale eight years ago, Norway was prepared for the radical changes we experienced in march this year, when students had to learn from home.  How the different countries arranged school in 2020 varied from mostly open schools to hardly any time at school at all. The consequences are difficult to predict, be we have to assume they are substantial in many parts of the world. What is also worrying is that what we offer our students these days varies from district to district here in Norway. Meaning the exams our students are preparing for this school year, will be on unequal terms. And that is bad news in a world where exams decide if you get to study where you want to and study what you want to. Some middle schools in my district have for some time only been offering second language teaching online. One teacher 30 students, all online. It is not hard to imagine that you have to be a truly motivated student to succeed.

Reimagine exams

Can we cancel exams the second year around, or alternatively, can we reimagine exams? Can we let our students take the exams online, using material they have saved and learned throughout this year? Perhaps a cross-curricular exam where many subjects are included, and the use of the internet is not looked on as cheating? Should students be allowed to show that they master the subjects in other ways than sitting an exam? Is it time to change? Or at least imagine that we can?  The article I wrote in 2012 ended this way;

If communication and collaboration are valued 21st-century skills, it will not be possible to hone these skills unless exams are changed in radical ways.

I still believe that to be true. Other countries are starting to look into this as well. It looks like the beginning of the end of America’s obsession with student standardized tests; Washington Post. England’s exam system is broken – let’s never put it together again, The Guardian. 






  1. Hello Ann. Really inspiring to read this. I would like to learn more about what has been the Norwegian experience before 2020 and if there are internet access/open book exams Can you pls get in touch Thank you

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