Saturday, December 10, 2005

Concordia's examinations

Being an invigilator during examination is not an easy task but rewarding. I have joined the team of invigilators for the first time during my studies at Concordia and I got surprised to realize the amount of efforts behind exams.

I have done exams under different educational system and I have never had the chance to think how these exams are setup and managed. I always felt that supervisors and invigilators are just mean people who are designed to bother students during exams and nag on them from time to time. To say the truth, some monitors are nothing but bothersome. Now, I am looking at things from a different perspective and I am getting the skills to guess whether a student is about to cheat or not. It is hard to assume and blame someone of cheating but I am realizing how easy is to see a tired student looking around waiting for an inspiration.

During my studies at The American University of Beirut I admired the examination schedueler system that was designed by my Software Engineering professor (Dr. Akra). A light and simple software that will acquire the rooms capacity, students numbers, and exams in order to define the scheduele for the whole examination session. That was back in 1993 when the computer industry was still crawling. At the same time, I attended the Lebanese University for a History degree and I hated the concept of exams there where everything is done manually and few students might be assigned the same seat number sometimes and wrong rooms.

Coming to Concordia, I just took graduate courses where everything is arranged by professors most of the time and things will go on a "Let Go" basis. You go into a classroom and find a place and just do your exam and leave. As simple as that.

However, things are extremely different for undergraduate students whose exams are assigned differently and their seats in the rooms are different as well. I know the system had several bugs but I have to respect the amount of efforts being spent behind all this arrangments.

I attended a training session last Tuesday for new inviglators and it reminded me of my military services when I was trained (as an army officer) on how to train the new (fantassin). I felt that I am going into a class room to inspect every student and check what they are doing and count their blinks. At the end of the session things started to shape and I noticed that the exagerated perception I got was just a higher push in order to keep a tighter control in mind.

In examinations rooms, things went very well and students did not feel the pressure of having several steps to get to their places or communicate with the invigilators or with their own professors.

It shocked me that students do not even try to cheat !!! I was telling another colleague that they have to go to Lebanon to see what is cheating during examinations :)

In total, it is a nice experience thgouh it needs continous improvement maily in the seat assignments and in the supervision system. Seats should be automatically assigned using a software and students should be able to get their numbers from a posted list on the billboards in front of the examination rooms. Second, some supervisors need continous training on how to control their nerves when they face a novice invigilator. I heard today that one supervisor insulted an invigilator in front of everybody in the class because he had his coat on. I could not beleive this but this might had happened. It became very hard for him to control the students for the rest of the night because they saw him being insulted in front of their eyes.

I wonder what this supervisor will do if she saw my invigilation-mate this morning when he was reading the code of condut for students in class. He was playing the role of a Chi-Choy-Fu master shouting and making all kind of hand gests. Yaaaa Shaaa Noooo Taaaa :)

Overall, I feel that every graduate students should see this experience in order to build his perception on how exams should be conducted and what he might face in the future when teaching.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the hard work that everybody is putting and the long nights spent by the examination officers to facilitate the life of everyody during these 15 days. I can not compare the continous effort put in here but to my 60 days intensive military training.

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