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University courses... Without exams??

What do you all think of courses with and without exams? I'm thinking of studying Economics, but some unis don't do exams.

Are these courses less rigorous? Or more rigorous? Do you think employers car or not?
Employers don’t know what assessment methods each university uses
Reply 2
Excellent question. Yes programmes with exams are more rigorous, and in the medium run you will be better off with a degree from somewhere that has exams because programmes that don't will face a crisis of credibility in the near future. At the moment employers don't know what assessment methods different institutions use, but those institutions that don't have exams will face a disastrous exposure in a few years time as their graduates emerge into the workplace with zero skills, having used AI to get through assessments. The sector is moving incredibly slowly on this, University leaders have not on the whole recognised or accepted this yet, but this doesn't change the facts on the ground. Go for somewhere that takes assessment integrity seriously, it will pay off.
Original post by DR_C
Excellent question. Yes programmes with exams are more rigorous, and in the medium run you will be better off with a degree from somewhere that has exams because programmes that don't will face a crisis of credibility in the near future. At the moment employers don't know what assessment methods different institutions use, but those institutions that don't have exams will face a disastrous exposure in a few years time as their graduates emerge into the workplace with zero skills, having used AI to get through assessments. The sector is moving incredibly slowly on this, University leaders have not on the whole recognised or accepted this yet, but this doesn't change the facts on the ground. Go for somewhere that takes assessment integrity seriously, it will pay off.

and the basis for your asserrtion is what exactly ?
Personally, I don't think universities should make exams a major part of their assessments especially if they're something like social sciences or biology as I feel as though coursework based assignments e.g. essays, scientific reports are better as you are more able to apply knowledge and show understanding (at least in my eyes) and especially with sciences, are more likely to help prepare you for a career in that area. Additionally, I don't think exams test knowledge and understanding, more just memory especially when you're just asked to recall things. Exams that ask for knowledge application such as open book exams I don't mind as much. As mentioned above, employers are not given any indication of assessment methods and therefore it really isn't important in that regard. I also don't think it reflects on how difficult a course is, especially as different people find different topics more difficult than others and it's very subjective as to how rigorous a course is. All that matters in the end of the day is that you've got a degree 🙂
Reply 5
Original post by Miss Pulford
and the basis for your asserrtion is what exactly ?

Good question! I'm Exams Chair and Faculty Lead on AI and Assessment Integrity at a research-intensive university, my assertion is based on what I've experienced and know about the situation from this and the research and work I've been involved in in these roles... Do you have a different view about the issue?

(To be clear, I didn't mean to suggest that you can't learn without exams, just that universities have no way of telling whether their graduates have actually acquired skills and knowledge without exams, so that without exams there will inevitably be in a few years time graduates coming out without the skills and knowledge they are supposed to have. This is why the professions still have in-person exams - you wouldn't want a surgeon operating on you or a pilot flying your plane who might have got their accreditation just by sitting at home using ChatGPT, after all. Or would you?)
(edited 2 months ago)
Original post by DR_C
Good question! I'm Exams Chair and Faculty Lead on AI and Assessment Integrity at a research-intensive university, my assertion is based on what I've experienced and know about the situation from this and the research and work I've been involved in in these roles... Do you have a different view about the issue?

(To be clear, I didn't mean to suggest that you can't learn without exams, just that universities have no way of telling whether their graduates have actually acquired skills and knowledge without exams, so that without exams there will inevitably be in a few years time graduates coming out without the skills and knowledge they are supposed to have. This is why the professions still have in-person exams - you wouldn't want a surgeon operating on you or a pilot flying your plane who might have got their accreditation just by sitting at home using ChatGPT, after all. Or would you?)

Was your doctorate assessed with an exam?
Reply 7
Original post by PQ
Was your doctorate assessed with an exam?

Yes it was! PhDs are as standard assessed by an in-person exam - it's called a viva voce, a 3 hour (or sometimes more) in-person interrogation, where you're locked in a room with two professors and have to defend your thesis and respond to a detailed cross-examination... It's the only way to be sure 🙂

You're right to raise the issue of PhD assessment in the AI age, though. I wrote my thesis long before genAI existed, but today the problem of people potentially using AI to write their doctoral dissertations is a real one..
(edited 2 months ago)
Original post by DR_C
Yes - it's called a viva voce, a 3 hour in-person interrogation


So not an exam then. A viva isn’t comparable to exams sat by undergraduates in any way. Its not conducted in silence for a start :wink:

Or do you consider all presentations and in person assessments exams?
Original post by DR_C
Good question! I'm Exams Chair and Faculty Lead on AI and Assessment Integrity at a research-intensive university, my assertion is based on what I've experienced and know about the situation from this and the research and work I've been involved in in these roles... Do you have a different view about the issue?

(To be clear, I didn't mean to suggest that you can't learn without exams, just that universities have no way of telling whether their graduates have actually acquired skills and knowledge without exams, so that without exams there will inevitably be in a few years time graduates coming out without the skills and knowledge they are supposed to have. This is why the professions still have in-person exams - you wouldn't want a surgeon operating on you or a pilot flying your plane who might have got their accreditation just by sitting at home using ChatGPT, after all. Or would you?)

It's odd how some University courses manage to have relatively few exams instead using other assessment strategies and a were relevant expert assessment in the workplace to award practise based learning requirement.
Original post by DR_C
Yes it was! PhDs are as standard assessed by an in-person exam - it's called a viva voce, a 3 hour (or sometimes more) in-person interrogation, where you're locked in a room with two professors and have to defend your thesis and respond to a detailed cross-examination... It's the only way to be sure 🙂

You're right to raise the issue of PhD assessment in the AI age, though. I wrote my thesis long before genAI existed, but today the problem of people potentially using AI to write their doctoral dissertations is a real one..

LOL

oh look the supposed academic is engaging in moving the goalposts
Reply 11
Original post by PQ
So not an exam then. A viva isn’t comparable to exams sat by undergraduates in any way. Its not conducted in silence for a start :wink:

Or do you consider all presentations and in person assessments exams?

Good questions! The problem now is that there is no way to be sure that someone actually wrote their thesis - 15 years ago there was no genAI and not much of a contract cheating market. (See my edits to the previous comment: <<You're right to raise the issue of PhD assessment in the AI age, though. I wrote my thesis long before genAI existed, but today the problem of people potentially using AI to write their doctoral dissertations is a real one..>>)

A viva voce is an exam, to be sure! One of the most gruelling. You're right, it isn't exactly the same as a traditional undergraduate exam, sat in silence in a big hall, but guess what? For my undergraduate degree I had to do those too! We all (current acaemics) did. That's how it worked (until recently), and for a good reason: it's the only way to be sure. They're not nice, they're not fun, no-one enjoys them, everyone gets anxious about them and is relieved when they're over, but they do make it possible for examiners to tell with some degree of confidence whether students actually know anything or do anything (do such things as think about something in written form, analyse, criticise, develop an argument, etc.) Very imperfect of course, but as imperfect as take-home assessments on which anyone can pass by getting a chatbot to do it for them? I doubt it.

Though a viva voce isn't exactly the same as undergraduate sit-down exams, that doesn't mean they're not comparable. (I suspect that if anything many undergraduates would find a viva voce even more daunting than the sit-down exam, though that's an open question.) We can compare them in terms of the relevant, essential dimension - do they allow the examiners to tell with some degree of confidence whether the student knows what they are supposed to know and is capable of what they are supposed to be capable of?

No, I don't consider all presentations and in-person assessments exams - there are many examples of in-person assessments that aren't comparable to exams on the essential dimension I just described, such as in-person group presentations which in many cases unfairly allow for some students to free-ride off other members of the group's hard work and get the same grade, etc. But a proper, rigorous viva is an exam. The problem is it is very impractical to roll this model out to unergraduate assessment because it is so labour intensive and logistically demanding. In any case, it still wouldn't allow us to examine a crucial question - whether the student can cogently develop an idea in writing. Writing isn't an incidental way of finding out what is in someone's head, it is a core capacity and practice.

All this is a big big question mark about how things go from here - we are in the eye of the storm at the moment.
Reply 12
Original post by Miss Pulford
LOL

oh look the supposed academic is engaging in moving the goalposts

Don't get this one I'm afraid! Which goalposts are being moved? Did you read what I wrote?
Reply 13
Original post by Miss Pulford
It's odd how some University courses manage to have relatively few exams instead using other assessment strategies and a were relevant expert assessment in the workplace to award practise based learning requirement.

In-person practical assessments I don't have a problem with - they are exams! They allow the examiner to see what you actually know and can do - perfect!
Reply 14
Original post by Miss Pulford
It's odd how some University courses manage to have relatively few exams instead using other assessment strategies and a were relevant expert assessment in the workplace to award practise based learning requirement.

Ah, to be clear - this is not about some universities or others - it is a sector-wide problem... Programmes relying heavily on in-person exams are now in the minority. Across the board the majority of assessments are taking place remotely. It isn't about disparaging particular institutions or programmes. The problem is that assessments went remote during the pandemic and have largely stayed there, then genAI hit. It's a big problem for the sector. The question is how long before the reality dawns and exams are brought back, and how much reputational damage will have been sustained by institutions and the sector in the meantime... Well, let's see
Original post by DR_C
Ah, to be clear - this is not about some universities or others - it is a sector-wide problem... Programmes relying heavily on in-person exams are now in the minority. Across the board the majority of assessments are taking place remotely. It isn't about disparaging particular institutions or programmes. The problem is that assessments went remote during the pandemic and have largely stayed there, then genAI hit. It's a big problem for the sector. The question is how long before the reality dawns and exams are brought back, and how much reputational damage will have been sustained by institutions and the sector in the meantime... Well, let's see

abundantly clear you are very short on actual clue or experience there .
Reply 16
Original post by Miss Pulford
abundantly clear you are very short on actual clue or experience there .

Good point! Very thoughtful. 😉

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