New U of T exams app saves time and trees

Students in class during lecture

It’s the most stressful time of the year – final exams. Now, a new U of T application will help to ease anxiety by speeding up exam attendance, improving student tracking, and enhancing the overall staff and student experience.

The application, called Exam Invigilation, was recently piloted with over 500 students at the Faculty of Arts & Science (A&S). It was developed by U of T’s Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI).

“In the past, staff used the small photo on the TCard to confirm a student’s identity, and they relied on a paper-based registration process,” says Vik Chadalawada, Senior Manager of Student Information Systems with EASI. “Now, they can quickly scan the student’s TCard, confirm their identity on a tablet that displays large photos, and accurately track student information.”

The technology relies on a Bluetooth scanner that links to the tablets and connects to Student Life’s TCard photo database. During its recent pilot with A&S, the application saved staff over half the registration time, compared to the previous process.

“Our goal is to let students focus on writing their exams, which is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” says Christine Babikian, Associate Director, Scheduling & Examinations at A&S. “In the past, staff would walk around the examination room and ask students to sign a registration sheet. Now, they can avoid interrupting students by silently scanning their TCards.”

As a backup, if students forget their TCard for their exam, staff can manually register them by checking a piece of official identification against the TCard photo database.

The application also allows staff to track student information in real time. It shows how many students have checked in for the exam and which ones are late or absent. Staff can view a student’s entire exam history to see patterns of absences or lateness, and it can track seat numbers, helping staff to investigate possible academic offences.

“Any approved staff can easily log in to the student information system and follow up with students who didn’t write the exam,” says Paul Day, an Information Systems Analyst & Client Services Representative with EASI. “There’s no longer any paper-based back and forth between the exams, registrars and academic integrity offices.”

The application is based on a model originally developed by the University of Toronto Mississauga with Cesar Mejia, Associate Registrar of Scheduling and Systems Management. This version was instrumental in helping EASI to develop an enterprise-wide level solution for U of T.

And the University of Toronto Scarborough was the first to pilot it in 2016 and 2017. The EASI team initially worked with Naureen Nizam, UTSC Associate Registrar and Director of Systems and Operations, to use it with 1,106 students in courses ranging from chemistry and biology to psychology and sociology.

What’s next for Exam Invigilation?

A&S plans to use it in large examination locations in December 2018. The team at EASI also plans to incorporate information from Accessibility Services so staff know which students are writing exams at different locations.

“We’re excited about how this application could be implemented for all other divisions having similar challenges within U of T,” says Chadalawada. “It is yet another area of systems innovation that we are proud to have within our solutions portfolio at EASI.”