Tips For Using Zoom and Moodle for Exams

Zoom and Moodle can be used to help with assessment. Zoom classrooms can be booked for exams just as physical classrooms were booked before. However, conducting an exam online is very different from doing it in a physical room, and we should not expect the available technology to provide perfect replication of traditional exams. In particular, no software has yet been written that can guarantee the identity of the person behind a computer. Various software companies claim to do this and also offer Moodle plugins, but any student who really wants to have another person write their exam can get round these measures fairly easily. 

Since exams are high-stakes activities, it is important to have a Plan B in the event that there are technical problems either at the teacher’s or the student’s end. If, for example, we want students to upload something to Moodle, what should they do if they are unable to upload it?

Using Zoom for Oral Exams

Whether online or offline, the most reliable way to assess students’ knowledge and abilities is an interview-style exam. This is often conducted as a follow-up to project work, as with a traditional jury or thesis defence. Zoom is well suited to this kind of examination. A few tips:

  1. Set up appointments on Moodle using the Scheduler feature. This way you only need to indicate the available times and students can sign up themselves.
  2. Use a waiting room so students join the meeting only when invited in.
  3. If more than one teacher is interviewing, one should start the meeting and make the other a co-host (hover mouse over their name in the participants list then click “More”).

Using Zoom in Written Exams

It is possible to monitor students’ activity in exams using Zoom, but before using Zoom for proctoring, you need to consider what its purpose is. Zoom can add to the atmosphere of being in an exam (if that is what you want) but its capacity in this area is very limited, and it should not be regarded as an effective way to prevent cheating. In any interaction using Zoom, we are dependent on students’ goodwill, technical competence and hardware. Related to this, the following points need to be borne in mind.

  1. We can ask students to point their webcam at their face or at their exam answers, but they can’t do both of these and write at the same time!
  2. Students may not have a webcam or may not be able to position it to show their desk. This is particularly true for laptops.
  3. If students don’t want us to see what they’re doing, they can just tell us their webcam isn’t working (which is often true). More technically adept students can send us a webcam feed of whatever they want. (Software to do this is freely available.)
  4. Even if students are able and willing to have a camera pointing at the exam answer as it is written, we have no guarantee that the hands we see belong to the student.
  5. There is no point in telling students to switch their microphones on if we don’t want to talk to them. If they don’t want us to hear them, they can just turn the volume down.  
  6. If students do turn their microphones on, this means that every noise in every student’s house will be heard by every student. This also means that if a student wants to disrupt the exam, all they need to do is arrange for some background noise.
  7. Students are perfectly capable of using one device to write exam answers and another to research those answers.
  8. There is no guarantee that the exam answer you see students writing in Zoom is the same one that is submitted.

Using Moodle for Written Exams

Moodle can provide a simulacrum of an exam in that we can have the activity start and finish at a certain time, so students will not see the questions before the exam unless we want them too. We should bear in mind, though, that any exam conducted via Moodle (with or without Zoom) will be open-book, in that if students are doing an exam online, they can look things up online. There is no practical way to prevent this.

The two most useful Moodle tools for exams are Assignment and Quiz. The former is more suitable for essay-type exams, the latter for exams with a large number of questions.

Some tips:

  1. Use the Availability settings to set the start and end times of the exam. 
  2. Moodle has features for assigning graders to assignments, including blind grading.
  3. You can set different assignments or quizzes for different sections. Use the Restrictions setting for this, which will allow you to specify which group (i.e., section) a student must be in to see the exam. (There are other conditions you can play around with here, such as making the quiz contingent on completing some other Moodle activity.)
  4. With quizzes, it is a good idea to use question banks and assign random questions.
  5. You can play around with quiz settings to determine how many attempts students can make and what kind of feedback they get after each attempt.

Tutorial on Assignments

Tutorial on Quizzes