UNC suspends Blue Book usage

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October 17, 2008

2:28 AM

Faculty members at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill are hoping to deter cheating by replacing the blue books used for exams with a computer-administered testing program called Securexam — a program
that concurrently launches a word processor and locks all other software on the computer.

According to The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper, Securexam has been available to the campus for the past three years.

“I think it improves [students’] work, and it certainly means that I can grade their papers paying attention to what it is they have to say,” UNC English professor Joseph Wittig told Insider Higher Ed.

Wittig reported that any technical issues faced by students on older laptops, such as trouble saving or
uploading the exams, have been mostly resolved and noted that this software took the problem of cheating “off the table.”

Other benefits include the elimination of paper waste. Student responses are electronically encrypted and uploaded onto a server only accessible by the professor. Laptops remain locked until the exam is submitted, even if they are shut down or restarted.

Originally made available to professional graduate programs and handicapped students, Securexam has 150 clients and is used in five countries. The program cost ranges from $5 to $25 per user.

“Computer-based testing benefits every stakeholder in the academic institution, from the student that’s more comfortable typing to the teacher who finds it easier to grade something that’s typed to the administration that can support the needs of their students and faculty better,” Doug Winneg, president of Software Secure and maker of Securexam, told Insider Higher Ed.

The majority of students are pleased with the University’s decision to eliminate the use of blue books for exams because the new program makes writing intensive exams easier to complete.

Critics of Securexam are concerned with the distraction caused by an examination hall filled with typing students and problems with dying laptop batteries. However, Wittig noted that fewer students are opting to use blue books instead of Securexam.

“It’s time for the university to implement Securexam across campus, thus eliminating the need for blue books,” The Daily Tar Heel said in an editorial.

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