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One testing environment for everything: EXaHM starts in winter semester 2021/22

With the new application, Hof University of Applied Sciences is introducing an intuitive and application-oriented form of examination for digital tests from the winter semester onwards, which brings with it many practical advantages. Planning, execution, and archiving are expected to be significantly simplified. The team responsible for implementation, led by academic director Prof. Dr. Christine Brautsch and administrator André Rister, provides information on the current state of affairs.

They have already been able to test the new examination environment: from left, Luisa Trautmann, Melissa Hohenberger, Samantha Münkel and Selina Müller; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

Prof. Dr. Brautsch, what exactly do you mean by EXaHM?

EXaHM is a digital examination environment that makes it possible to design examinations in such a way that, in principle, tasks can be processed in any software solution. No separate hardware is required for this, but EXaHM can be used on any PC and in any computer room. The PCs are put into examination mode via a centrally controlled web app, the students enter their data and the examination supervisor centrally releases the examination. From this point on, students can work on the exam questions in the required software solutions.

When was the decision made to implement this at Hof University of Applied Sciences?

EXaHM was developed, tested and continuously improved at Munich University of Applied Sciences by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Georg Braun over a period of several years. In 2019, it was then decided that the system should be installed at other university locations in Bavaria as part of the Bayern Digital initiative via the structures created in this course. Here, our Vice President of Teaching, Prof. Dr. Dietmar Wolff, “raised his hand” and fortunately the selection fell on Hof University of Applied Sciences as the first cooperation partner. This is something that other universities envy. After an initial on-site meeting in Hof in December 2019, the most important milestones were identified and a roadmap defined. We then plan to implement it in the winter semester of 2021.

Mr. Rister, what are the advantages compared to previous solutions?

EXaHM simplifies the planning, execution and archiving of digital exams

Compared to the exam identifiers currently still in use, EXaHM offers more control over the usable functions of the operating system and the software solutions used.

Prof. Dr. Christine Brautsch

A separate file explorer (comparable to a workflow view) shows the students at any time of the exam which documents have to be edited or saved, when they were last saved and how much time is left for editing.

Storage is local, but is transferred to the exam server at specific time intervals, greatly reducing the likelihood of data loss.

In addition, access to certain programs, functions, and files is limited, and Internet access is also enabled only when needed.

Once processing is complete, all exam data is finally pulled onto the server by the student pressing a button, and the PC is locked for the time being. Following an exam, the EXaHM support team can restore all PCs involved to normal operation and shut them down at the push of a button. The test data can then be loaded collectively from the server and evaluated.

How many people are working on the implementation?

The scientific management of the project at Hof University of Applied Sciences is in the hands of Prof. Dr. Brautsch. The support team is formed by Sebastian Meyer and Sven Neupert from the IT & Projects department and myself as EXaHM administrator. The strategic management is the responsibility of Vice President Prof. Dr. Wolff.

Prof. Dr. Christine Brautsch (Scientific Management) and Vice President Teaching, Prof. Dr. Dietmar Wolff (Strategic Management) coordinate the introduction of the new examination environment; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences

Prof. Dr. Brautsch, what were the main challenges and difficulties?

In the beginning, it was mainly technical hurdles that caused problems due to different operating system versions in Munich and Hof. The different setup of the network infrastructure also required some adjustments in the basic configuration of the EXaHM server. After these challenges were solved, the COVID19-related limitations caused further delays – as mentioned above. The first tests with students were initially scheduled for the second half of 2020. However, they could ultimately not be conducted until mid-2021.

Have there already been initial tests in practice?

In June 2021, after months of Corona restrictions, we were finally able to conduct a test exam with students, which brought in exclusively positive feedback. Now we have to fix the last construction sites and work on the process for EXaHM-driven exams.

When can we expect the first real-world use and what does this mean for students and invigilators?

Live operation is targeted for the exam period of the coming winter semester, and until then we will promote EXaHM extensively at the university, as we believe it will bring many benefits for both teachers and students. In addition, training must be provided for the various user groups involved, specifically faculty, students, and supervisory staff.

Thank you for this information.

Here are some insights into the user interface of the new EXaHM exam environment:
The first two images show the login screen, image 3 shows the start state with assignment or exam flow, image 4 shows the state during the exam with saved documents, image 5 shows the dialog box when a student clicks on “Finish Exam” and finally image 6 shows the view after the exam is finished

Rainer Krauß

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