Online exams at TiU: what went wrong?

Since the coronavirus crisis, many online exams have been administered at Tilburg University. That often goes well, but sometimes it doesn’t. From pre-published questions to deliberate fraud, Univers lists the incidents.

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In spite of the two large tents that were erected on the Tilburg campus this fall, a lot of online exams are administered again this semester. Little can go wrong with pen and paper, but as soon as technology is involved, things go wrong faster.

TiU did not have a major ICT malfunction preventing exams from taking place, as was the case in Amsterdam and Groningen. Smaller incidents did occur, TiU spokesperson Tineke Bennema informs Univers.

Questions visible in advance

For example, one question of an exam was visible beforehand. This does not have major consequences for the students, says Bennema, because in the end the question is not included in the grading.

Another exam, Introduction to logic and Philosophy, was declared invalid in whole because all the questions were visible beforehand. Again, according to Bennema, the consequences are minor: “In principle, students are not delayed in their studies. The lecturer will integrate this interim exam in the last course examination”.

In the exam European History: Politics & Culture, fifty students could not upload their answers. According to Bennema, some may have suffered from a “malfunction,” but there were no problems with Canvas. “It is our conclusion that most students were too late.”

Submitting an exam too late can have major consequences for students. This differs per case. If it is not their own fault, students can still send the files by e-mail at the request of the lecturer, according to Bennema. “Or they can submit a request to the Examination Board.”

It is being investigated whether it is possible and necessary to give students more time to upload their files in the next period.


Cheating also occurs. In online exams with digital proctoring, students have done things that are explicitly forbidden in the FAQ or cover pages. “For example, starting the exam too late, the presence of third parties, wearing headphones without explicit permission, or using unauthorized reference materials such as websites or books.”

In the May/June exam period, the Examination Board decided in several cases that fraud was involved, according to the TiU spokesperson. “Official warnings have been issued, exams have been declared invalid for the students concerned, and students have been temporarily excluded from participation in exams.”

Bennema can’t say if any cheating occured in the current semester. “In the past period, about 200 proctored exams have been administered, involving about 35,000 students. At the moment, we are still investigating possible fraud cases. We are still within the 30-day period in which the Examination Boards decide.”

A student always gets the chance to give an explanation, Bennema emphasizes. “Also, immediately after the exam, a student can report circumstances that could possibly be considered fraud. These remarks will always be taken into account in the final decision.”

Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel

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