Why are we getting an Online Exam System?

During the exam period in Semester 2 of the 2019/20 academic year, we ran the majority of our assessment on Moodle in an assignment format. This was a direct response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Moodle wasn't designed to host online exams and we spread the load to ensure the service remained stable at all times. The process around exams needed urgent change and we were delighted that the urgent measures had performed well.

For future years we need to ensure that we can deliver exams within a set time frame, on another platform. We also need to reinstate anonymity, which was removed by the urgent measures, to enable staff to deal with any difficulties during the amended exam process. Inspera supports double blind marking and provides built in support for large scale summative quizzes.

Why Inspera?

The Norwegian system Inspera was the best fit with the institutional requirements due to its additional functionality for STEM subjects, especially maths. There is also the ability to hand-write on barcoded paper in a controlled environment, with the examiner able to scan that afterwards and it being stored with the rest of the paper online. This is out of scope for the initial delivery, due to it being highly likely that exams will once again be remote during the 2020/21 academic year, however it is functionality we may choose to implement at a later date and is a useful option.

We trialled Inspera across different units during a pilot in 2018/19 which provided us with a view of how it would work across the institution. We ran tests on different scales, from 6 to 286 students and found that student feedback was largely positive.

As alluded to above, given time constraints and the sheer scale of the project, it is unlikely that we will have the system fully operational in the 2020/21 academic year, but most key features can be installed.

It can also be integrated with Urkund, our originality detection software.

Watch this short video [7 mins 30 secs] which demonstrates how the tool is used.


Please send any queries or questions you have about using Inspera to the email address below:

A particular feature which was praised during the pilot was the ability to display a page of text on the left hand side of the screen, with the scrollable questions on the right hand side of the screen. This reduced the time spent switching between a sheet of text and the answer sheet (e.g. where 3 questions are presented for 2 to be answered).

What is the timeline?

We will use Inspera for a number of exams in the January exam period 2020/21. At present, the intention is to use the service for those which are relatively simple to convert from paper to online, whilst bearing in mind that being online opens many different avenues for assessment, which a traditional paper format would not offer.

These will remain open-book exams for now, to enable us to run these exams with limited risk and ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible for both yourselves, and your students. From Semester 2 2020/21 more question types will be supported.

Who can I contact for more information?

First, please look at our Digital Assessment FAQs to see if your question has been answered.

Speak to your departmental administrator or fellow academic colleagues if you have a question related to departmental procedures.

If specific help is required, staff can contact the support email address.

Message to staff 30/09/2020

Setting exams for Semester 1 using Inspera

The UoB agreed to purchase Inspera in a move to enhance online assessments, build on lessons learnt from the successful emergency move in the last semester, and enable a safe approach to examinations in the AY2021. A project team has been established to undertake implementation, led by CLT, with representation from Academic staff, Academic Registry, Programme Administration, Student Services and DDaT. RCPT is supporting the work, and ensuring that assessment principles and parameters are reviewed, and the SU consulted.

The preparatory systems work is underway, but due to timescales it is likely that the first release will be with basic functionality, and used for summative exam assessments only. Over the longer term there is scope to support coursework, and increase use in formative assessments, for example employing useful automatic marking on MCQs.

We are looking to use Inspera for Semester 1 exams (with Moodle as a backup) but realise some may be considering setting exams already. We are also looking at how far back we can push the exam question paper submission date as we no longer have to print exams (although there will still need to be a moderation by internal and external examiners where relevant) . This will give more time to set questions once teaching has settled down after the first few weeks.

If you wish to start writing exam questions and solutions now it would be prudent to initially do this on Word as in most cases individual questions can be copied and pasted or saved as a pdf and directly included into Inspera. It is important that the accessibility of the Word file is checked using the accessibility checker (under Review menu) as some students require screen readers and other technology to access exam papers.

For Semester 1 2020/21, using question types similar to those from existing paper-based exams will limit the impact if for some reason Inspera cannot be used for exams and we need to use Moodle instead.  This will also make it easier for students who are going through a very difficult and uncertain time.  Having exams completely different to previous exams will increase student uncertainty and stress during the exam period as they will not have access to representative past papers.

The team is working to release Inspera for training in November. Up to date information and guidance will be posted on this page (or linked to from this page) as the project develops, but we hope to have guidance similar to that from other institutions (e.g. the University of Olso in Norway).

If you have any general queries about the project please contact Phillippa Lowton.