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Digital assessments in the classroom and remote at the University of Milan

About the University of Milan

The University of Milan (Università degli Studi di Milano) is a public research university in Milan, Italy. It is one of the largest universities in Europe, with about 60,000 students, and a permanent teaching and research staff of about 2000. The University consistently ranks as one of the best universities in Italy.

Exam.net is used in many departments across the university by thousands of students each month. More than 200 000 individual exams have been conducted and submitted through Exam.net at the University of Milan since they started using the platform in 2020.

Challenges

When the University of Milan adopted Exam.net there was an urgent need to manage remote online examinations in a reliable and secure manner. Exam.net easily met all the university’s requirements, was easy to introduce to the staff and, as a bonus, proved to be much more than just a remote online assessment tool.

In 2022, as the lecture halls once again filled with students, digital lectures and remote examinations became a thing of the past for most. The staff running distance degree courses, however, wanted to continue with online assessments and a secure and reliable platform was necessary in order to enable online examinations to run smoothly and be secure enough to prevent cheating.

As it became more widespread to leave the traditional lecture hall experience behind, a demand also arose for a greater variety of engaging learning activities in the classroom.

More than 200 000 individual exams have been conducted and submitted through Exam.net at the University of Milan since they started using the platform in 2020.

Solutions

Exam.net had proved extremely secure and reliable for digital assessments during the years of the pandemic, given that students could not exit the exam window without alerting the proctor. It was therefore an obvious choice to continue using Exam.net for distance degree courses.

“A remote examination can be run as effectively and with no increased risk of cheating compared to one run in the examination hall.”

Nello Scarabottolo, Professor of Computer Science,
University of Milan

Nello Scarabottolo, Professor of the University of Milan, runs the distance Bachelor Degree Programme in Computer Security and is also an administrator for Exam.net within the university as a whole. He has used Exam.net for formal remote assessments, not only enabling the students to write answers digitally, but also to use the in-built drawing tool for diagrams. If an exam answer requires a handwritten solution, then students can easily scan their work and attach it to their exam using the effective phone scanning feature.

The built-in monitoring view makes proctoring of the exams easy and efficient, something that Nello really appreciates. In the proctoring view (“monitoring”), Nello can not only see the development of an individual student’s answers in real time, but can also chat with a student (or the group) via the much appreciated built-in chat function.

The versatility of Exam.net also means that non-assessed digital activities can be introduced in the classroom. Cristina Brancaglion is a Professor of French Linguistics and she uses a wide variety of shorter digital activities with her students to add variation to her 90 minute teaching sessions, as well as using Exam.net for final, summative digital assessments at the end of each course.

She particularly likes the anonymization feature whereby each student writes a text, she selects one directly and then the whole class analyzes it together. The text appears on the main screen whilst the student’s identity remains unknown. In addition she makes use of the multiple choice and fill-the-gap question types to make short in-class quizzes, which are auto-marked by Exam.net. The students not only appreciate the structure that Cristina has introduced, but also the fact that they are less passive in her classroom.

“Using Exam.net for a range of digital activities with my students has made my classroom more interactive and dynamic.”

Cristina Brancaglion, Professor of French Linguistics,
University of Milan

“Out of the over 1000 staff using Exam.net, fewer than 10 have had to ask me for help in using the platform.”

Nello Scarabottolo, Professor of Computer Science,
University of Milan

Benefits

Easy to use

As Exam.net administrator for the university, Nello is a person that the staff turns to when difficulties arise. He has been struck by how easy it was to introduce a new platform to his colleagues, and how quickly they became confident users – even staff who had very little experience of digital platforms previously.

“I found Exam.net and all its features very intuitive - right from the start.”

Cristina Brancaglion, Professor of French Linguistics,
University of Milan

Similarly, students very quickly became comfortable with the platform and appreciated the many features available – even students with little previous technical experience. Many students have been surprised by how easy it is to start an exam via the exam key, without having to use any use logins and (forgettable!) passwords.

“Digital assessments run very smoothly from the students’ perspective.”

Nello Scarabottolo, Professor of Computer Science,
University of Milan

More efficient

Exam.net’s online assessment process continues to save staff an enormous amount of time and energy in many different ways. Some examples of staff experiences are highlighted below:
  • An assessment can be set up very quickly in Exam.net, either by attaching a pdf or writing one’s own questions

  • Time is saved by not having to photocopy examination papers

  • Proctoring examinations is a calmer experience thanks to the chat function and built-in monitoring view

  • The work of students with challenging handwriting can be more quickly marked digitally

  • Marking and grading digitally in general is much more efficient than handling hundreds of pieces of paper

  • As an added bonus the lack of paper is, of course, not only a money-saver but also a positive contribution to the environment

Quick and effective student feedback

For Cristina – who uses Exam.net in her teaching sessions – not only does she save time with summative digital assessments at the end of the course, but also in giving regular and immediate feedback to students.

The individual (non-graded) activities she uses in class take very little time to prepare and are usually auto-marked so that each student gets direct formative feedback on their language knowledge and skills during the class itself.

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