We launched the first online state exams

Bratislava, 9 April 2020: The first ever online state exams at Comenius University were launched this week at the Faculty of Medicine. The examination committee met under strict hygienic conditions at the faculty itself, and the students remained in the comfort of their own homes. It was in this way that students of general medicine and dentistry have already been assessed. There are nine parallel examination committees which assess Slovak as well as international students.

09. 04. 2020 20.53 hod.
By: CU's Public Relations Office

In one day, each committee assesses approximately ten students, the same number as in the case of the classical exam format. Each student answers for 30 to 40 minutes. Preparations for the online state exams began at the faculty two weeks before they were launched. In a short time they had to innovate both teaching and examination methods. The computing centre provided the technology and the necessary logistics for the examiners and students. On the Friday preceding the exams, the members of the exam committee were trained in working online with the Microsoft Teams system. "Today is the fourth hassle-free day of online exams," said the faculty's Vice-Dean for Development, Peter Jackuliak.

Students have been working with the system for several weeks since distance learning has been implemented. The day before the exams, a commission member contacts the relevant student study group to test the connection and set a specific time for the exam. Two students are assessed at the same time, and the exams are recorded with the students’ consent. "In addition, the exams are broadcast online for the public," adds Katarína Soroková, the head of the computing centre. The state exams are a public matter under the Higher Education Act.

In order for the committee to have permanent visual contact, the student connects through their computer or a mobile device if necessary. “We can invite the student to show the room or the desktop. They generally have less time to prepare, or they answer without preparation. However, I think our students, who are just a step away from getting their degree, are aware of the seriousness of the current situation, and I don't suspect they would resort to cheating. In addition, an experienced examiner can find out the student's real level of knowledge with a few questions,” says Jackuliak. The result of the state exams is announced by the head of the committee after the completion of the exams in the afternoon on the same day.

Despite initial doubts and the fact that this is a new experience for many teachers, there has been a positive response to this form of examination. “It worked pretty well. I examine international students, and I welcomed the fact that this testing option was chosen. I can state that all the students prepared for the exam properly,” says Kamil Pohlodek, the chairman of the exam committee in gynaecology. Many students have been involved in various volunteer activities since the coronavirus outbreak. “The students are also satisfied with this form of examination. Psychologically speaking, the fact that they are at home perhaps also plays a part,” says Jackuliak. On the first day of the exams, the connection with one student who had a weak signal cut out. The faculty is looking for a solution and says that no one needs to worry about not taking the exam for technical problems.

The state exams will continue next week as well as in May and June. In addition, the first defences of diploma theses online will take place in May and will be done by dental students. Ivan Varga, the faculty's Vice-Dean for Science, is convinced that this way of testing does not reduce the professional level of those who graduate and their preparedness to work in healthcare facilities: “In this situation, this is almost a fully fledged alternative to onsite exams.” Several committee members believe that this method could be an alternative to the classical method of examination in the future.

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