The use of student numbers to randomise remote quantitative and qualitative assessment in response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Norori-McCormac, Alexander and Mackay, Isobel and Sorensen, Eva; (2022) The use of student numbers to randomise remote quantitative and qualitative assessment in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In: Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium for Engineering Education. University of Strathclyde, GBR. ISBN 9781914241208 (

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The sudden lockdown in March 2020 in the U.K. as the result of Covid-19 resulted in the requirement for in person unseen examinations to be replaced with other forms of assessment that could be undertaken remotely. This presented numerous challenges, one of which was the potential for collusion and plagiarism as the students were no longer being assessed under controlled examination conditions. This paper discusses the use of student numbers in Chemical Engineering at UCL to randomise various components of both qualitative and quantitative assessment. Questions were either created or amended, with values substituted for a portion of the student number, or a portion of the student number could be linked to qualitative criteria. These randomisations forced the students to undertake their own series of calculations or research to answer the questions, thereby reducing opportunities for collusion, but also plagiarism. In practice, although opportunities for collusion and plagiarism were reduced, there were still occurrences. The use of an initial randomisation in some cases made it easier to identify where collusion had occurred, but it also resulted in often distinct answers that highlighted different approaches to assessment by students. The use of randomisation also increased the workload for assessors, with customised mark schemes and increased subject knowledge or research required to suitably evaluate the answers provided. Increased levels of randomisation to mitigate collusion and plagiarism will further increase workload and should be recognised when trying to balance competing priorities for educators responsible for designing and implementing assessment.

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