Classics exams to be webcam invigilated

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Image description: A laptop with a webcam being covered by tape

The Classics faculty have proposed that exams for students learning a classical language in Trinity Term 2020, including finalists, be conducted over video call. This includes Classics, its joint schools, CAAH, and AMH.

The faculty argues that the exams, based on the translation of a classical language, can not be converted into the modes of assessment suggested by the University, meaning that they can not be made into essay based submissions or open book exams without drastically changing what is actually being assessed.

An email from the faculty discloses: “Please remember that the proposal is subject to change and is yet to receive final permission from the university authorities.”

The exams will “in terms of both the question paper provided and the responses expected of you be identical to what had been anticipated before the pandemic restrictions were imposed”

The faculty proposes remote invigilation using webcam and platforms such as Skype and Microsoft Teams.  The students’ answers will continue to be handwritten unless the student normally has permission to type.

The emails continued, “You will connect via webcam over MS Teams with your invigilator and will complete a camera sweep of the whole room in which you are working, including the walls and surface of your desk… you will then set up the camera so that, as far as possible, both you and your working surface can be seen.” The papers must then be scanned and uploaded by the student.

The faculty added that they would provide webcams and 4G dongles for students who lack either a webcam or reliable internet. They also will check that all students have a printer and either a camera or a scanner for uploading exam papers.

Students expected to sit these exams are collaborating on a list of issues they intend to raise to the faculty in response to the proposal. These concerns include “there’s a million and one ways to cheat here, so it’s still basically an honour code system with the added weirdness of a skype invigilator”.

Students also worry that they would feel “self-conscious” if under such intense scrutiny, which may affect their exam performance.

An Oxford graduate who has sat the exams has remarked: “the webcam sweep of the whole room seems incredibly invasive and impractical and will be really unfair on students who don’t have safe/comfortable home environments”. They continue by expressing a concern that “stuff like this makes it seem like there’s still a real problem when it comes to trusting course II students and their capacity for independent learning”.

Postgraduate exams for these subjects will not be open book either, but whether or not a student cheats is reliant on honesty rather than an invigilator watching, which undergraduate students feel is a double standard.

For students who normally type exams, it is unclear whether this will entail a second webcam behind them to ensure that they are not browsing the internet for answers.

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