B. Berggren, A. Fili, O. Nordberg

Royal Institute of Technology (SWEDEN)
The Swedish higher educational system is under pressure. The competition from international universities is getting fiercer, and the demographical projections indicate that the number of students entering the university system is peaking right now. At the same time, the financial support from the government is decreasing. In order to stay competitive Swedish universities are trying to find strategies for using the scarce resources in the optimal way. The problem is to strike a balance between quality and efficiency.

Over the past ten years a lot of improvement has been made within the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) regarding quality and innovation in education. Pedagogical courses are mandatory for the staff, and the merits of educational experience have been emphasized in hiring new staff members. Even though problem-based learning, constructive alignment and peer instruction are common in most courses today, some other aspects of education and learning remains the same. One such conservative trait has to do with written examinations.

Since the founding of the university in 1827, all written examinations have been done using paper and pen at the Royal Institute of Technology. It is interesting to note that even the school of computer science is using paper and pen for their final written examinations. The problems with using paper and pen are numerous and includes; problems with reading and grading because of poor handwriting, distribution of exams between teachers in the same course, written exams getting lost, etc. In comparison with other parts of the educational system, little has happened to improve quality and efficiency when it comes to written examinations.

During 2013 and 2014 a number of teachers initiated a project for increasing the efficiency in written exams. There was a general understanding that the final part of the courses consumed too much time and effort in relations to the other parts. Hence, new software for digital examinations was identified and a license was purchased.

This paper summarizes the experiences that the teachers have made during this trial period. The experiences are divided between three different perspectives; the teachers, the students and the administrators. From the teachers perspective the experiences have been very positive – less time have been allocated to grading written exams, the grades are perceived as more just and the saved time can be spent on increasing the quality on other parts of the course. From a student perspective the experiences have been positive – most students are positive in that they get the results much quicker, that they can edit their answers on the exam easier and that the grades are more just. The experiences from the final perspective – that from the administrators’ point of view – are far more complex. Some parts of the administrative system encouraged the projects, whereas other parts tried to stop it, using different measures.

The paper concludes with some advice on implementing changes in written exams, based on the experiences from the Swedish case.