I want to testFinal state examination/Thesis defenseGeneral rules for organizing and holding state examinations

General rules for organizing and holding state examinations

Phase 1: Organizing the examination

As a part of distance state exams, more emphasis should be placed on communication with the student, not only due to sufficient advance notice when announcing terms, but also the method of technical support for the exam. Prior to commencing a state exam, the following steps should be taken: 

1) Set the term and manner for holding the state exam and inform students and the committee sufficiently in advance;

2) Check the technical conditions prior to commencing the state exam.

Terms and method of holding the state examination

When announcing the terms, the deadlines set out in the Special Rules for Studies at CU must be upheld[1] and any adjustment to the rules for the state exam that the dean has established based on these Special Rules.

  • The administrator[2] of the exam creates the online meeting in the selected tool. When selecting the tool, the capacity and possibilities of the tool must be taken into account, e.g. reserving the virtual room in Adobe Connect sufficiently in advance. When planning the term, it is also important to consider sufficient breaks between the exams (to account for complications during registration, tuning the settings for ideal transmission, slowness of the transmission, etc.).
  • [3] It is important for the student to be aware when registering for a specific term that it is a distance exam and what tool is being used.
  • The administrator sends the registration link to the student by e-mail to the student’s address provided in SIS and also shares with the student the necessary information for holding the state exam (or instructions for installing the tool).[4] It is also recommended to set the term of the test call in the selected tool.
  • Prior to the exam, it is recommended to acquire the telephone contact for the student. This measure is used as an emergency contact in the event of technical difficulties during an exam.

Inspection of technical conditions

 To ensure the technical aspects of meetings, the selected videoconference software/application must be installed, ideally on more than one device (notebook, phone). Due to the technical requirements of both of the above software, the software must be installed on the side of the examiner and the examinee. To prevent technical problems, it is recommended that all exam participants (administrators, committee members, and exam takers) do the following:

  • Prior to testing, check that the selected software is functioning and up-to-date (so that it does not start to update when the videoconference starts);
  • Check the camera, microphone, and earphones (earphones are preferred to speakers because they produce less audio feedback which worsens the sound quality); check the Bluetooth  connection for the earphones, etc.;
  • Check software controls, switching of windows, opening a chat window for resolving problems, feedback, etc.;
  • Make a test call in the software sufficiently in advance verifying all key functions (sound, picture, sharing desktops, and recording).[5]

For recording videos, it is recommended to use OBS Studio. This must be installed by the administrator (or a person who is responsible for making the recording) – see the instructions for installation and setting up OBS. In this software, a separate recording will be started at the same time after starting the test in the selected tool. When set correctly, the output format will be suitable for saving to ESSS CU without further modification. In addition, a double recording prevents potential problems when making recordings (typically a Wi-Fi outage, a damaged recording in the test tool, etc.).

If a student does not have appropriate technical equipment (e.g. a laptop with a video camera, microphone, and speakers, Internet connection), they may contact the Carolina Centre to borrow such equipment: centrumcarolina@cuni.cz (however, the capacity of the Carolina Centre is limited).

Phase 2: Commencing the examination

The following procedure is adapted for testing that is not preceded by individual student preparation, and the exam begins with verification of identity. If individual preparation (so-called wristbands) is necessary, the procedure differs slightly, depending on the options of the selected testing tool.

  1. The student and committee members (or also the administrator) connect to the planned online meeting.
  2. A designated committee member commences the state exam according to the exam type:
    • If the exam is recorded
      • A designated committee member informs the student that the exam will be recorded and that nobody may manipulate with  the recording process. The member then turns on the recording of the distance exam. The exam is recorded in two places simultaneously – in the selected tool and also in OBS Studio.
      • The examiner requests that the student turn on the microphone and the video camera and identify oneself by stating their first name and surname and also, for example, by showing their state or student ID to the camera.
      • The examiner requests that the student show the environment around them using their video camera (circling the room with the camera to ensure that nobody else is in the room and that there are no textbooks or other devices, etc. behind the computer or the desk).
    • If the exam is public
      • The examiner requests that the student turn on the microphone and video camera and identify oneself by stating their first name and surname  and also, for example, by showing their state or student ID to the camera.
      • ATTENTION! The part for verifying one’s identity must take place between the committee and the examinee only without the presence of the public! Thus, in the case of the public, it is important that this part take place first and only after should access be allowed to the public.
      • The examiner requests that the student show the environment around them using their video camera (circling the room with the camera to ensure that nobody else is in the room and that there are no textbooks or other devices, etc. behind the computer or the desk).
      • The administrator allows access to the public (waiting in the tool’s lobby), and thus no longer allowing additional members to join.
  3. Due to the subsequent documentation, the examiner must always state the exact date and time for the start of the exam.
  4. The examiner requests that the student share the entire screen of their computer, not just one application (verify the visibility of the Windows/MacOS/Linux main application panel).
  5. The examiner requests that the student turn off all active applications or applications running in the background, except the application in which the exam is running (possible to check using Task Manager).
  6. If it can be verified that the student has cheated, this is considered a disciplinary offence.[6]

Phase 3: Holding the examination

  • Drawing questions: If questions need to be drawn, we recommend following the regular rules. The drawing can be done in this case by the examiner. However, the credibility of the process must be verified (e.g. show that set of questions is complete and will be drawn in front of the camera; drawing by an electronic tool guaranteed by the faculty, etc.). Drawings may be organized, for example, by using Microsoft Forms.
  • The examiner can view the transmission primarily from the student’s camera and check if the student is trying to cheat (frequent movement of eyes when the student is trying to read something; whether other voices are not heard in the room; whether the camera does not film another person, etc.).
  • Designated committee members should also check the shared desktop of the student’s computer.
  • For the entire period of testing, the student should only have the exam application displayed or a text editor with their preparations for the exam, or other permitted applications if required by the nature of the exam.
  • For a more natural environment for the student, it is recommended that the examiner turn on their camera. In this way, the student may respond more naturally to the questions.
  • It is recommended that the committee members who are not speaking turn off their microphones and turn them on only when speaking. If noise disturbance occurs during the distance exam, the examiner will turn off all microphones except for their own and will inform all present persons of the disturbance, including the student, and request that it be corrected. After being corrected, the examiner requests that the student turn on their microphone again and then let’s the student speak again.
  • If the connection is lost or if there is a technical difficulty that leads to the exam being interrupted, the examiner must first and foremost attempt to reconnect with the student. If the exam is definitively interrupted, it is in the competence of the committee to determine whether the current progress made in the exam is sufficient for verifying the student’s knowledge. Either studies will be evaluated in a standard fashion (e.g. if a substantial part has already taken place, and based on this, it is possible to evaluate the student) or the student will need to be tested again, or a substitute question will be asked. A term cannot be missed due to technical problems, either on the part of the student or the examiners. The faculty may specify the rules according to the tool and the process of controlling the study of a subject, but it must acquaint the students with them in advance.
  • After answering all of the questions, the examiner ends the exam, and if a state exam is being recorded, the examiner stops the recording.
  • The voting process is not recorded. Various options are used to secure the voting of the exam committee, typically according to the selected application for testing, e.g.
    • In addition to the exam, the committee may also open an online chat in which it may discuss/vote. In such a case, it must be verified that it is actually a chat outside the exam and that the student is not present during the voting.
    • Another option is an Excel file created in advance with the names of the examinees in rows and the members of  the examination committee in columns. This file will be available and shared in advance only with the members of the examination committee. When saving the file on a shared space in Office 365, it is possible to edit this document simultaneously by all committee members.
    • The student is disconnected from the group (according to the possibilities of the tool), and after voting, is reconnected and then informed of the results.  

It is important to ensure with all of the methods that the student is not present during the voting or that the voting table was not shared with the student.

During the defence of a dissertation and state PhD exam, a record and the results of voting must be kept, in accordance with Article 11(13) of the Code of Study and Examination of Charles University. Thus, this record must be stored even for distance examinations, e.g. taking a snapshot of the screen (printscreeen) during the online voting in a chat or archiving the shared table with a record of the voting. 

In the case of recording a state exam, the recording is resumed and the committee communicates the result to the student. After communicating the result to the student, the recording is ended.

Phase 4: After the examination

If in accordance with the regulations, a protocol must be created for the examination, it must be created in the same manner as in the case of an on-site examination (in a non-editable format, such as pdf)  that the committee approves (e.g. per rollam). It is recommended to proceed according to the standard rules for creating protocols as a part of on-site examinations.

  • For examinations allowing the participation of the public, you must make sure that everyone leaves the online meeting (or that the exam administrator removes the participants).
  • If the examination was recorded, you must ensure that the video is downloaded according to the selected tool. In addition, the recording made in OBS Studio must be correctly saved in ESSS CU – see instructions below.

[1] We are waiting for registration. The link will be provided.

[2] The administrator can be the programme guarantor, a member of the committee, or the secretary of the workplace, who will supervise in particular the technical side of the exam (e.g. participation of the public or setting up the recording process and checking for unsolicited manipulation of the recording, etc.).

[3] Registered terms for distance exams count towards the minimum number of terms registered by a faculty.

[4] Note: If you decide to test in a tool that does not have an agreement on the processing of personal data, you must always inform the student that there is a possibility of sharing their data with a third party or outside the European Union.

[5] In the settings, MS Teams allows you to make a test call without connecting, but with respect to tuning any possible technical deficiencies, it is recommended to make a test call between the administrator and the student.

[6] For more information, see, for example, Section 64 of the Higher Education Act and the Code of Ethics of Charles University: https://cuni.cz/UK-9490.html.

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