When most of us want to know about something, whether it be the name of the inventor of the mousetrap, the chemical formula of a particular compound or the politics behind World War I, our first stop is likely going to be the nearest computer or smartphone and a quick browse on the internet.
With the world’s information at our fingertips, knowledge is no longer the preserve of libraries and highly educated minds. The real skills that are needed today are arguably those that we use to traverse these information fields.
If you know how to use online searches, how to assess the information that is presented and how to critically think about it, do you really need to know anything else? What is the point of retaining when you can just access the information you need?
Changing Information Access
Arguably, conventional high school and college exams are simply not keeping up with how most people now access and use information.
Back when any research or refreshing of information would require a trip to the nearest university library, then encyclopedic knowledge of a particular topic or field was likely necessary; however, today do you really need that information in your brain, or do you just need to know how to find it online?
Of course, there are exceptions to this – fields like medicine, engineering and so on will always require people both understand and know the information they need to do their jobs. Closed-book exams are one of the ways this knowledge can be assessed and will likely not change. For other fields, though, do closed-book exams really teach the skills that are needed?
How to Assess Students?
It could be said that a history graduate does not need to be examined on the facts of history. While their analysis of historical events and trends needs to be assessed, surely allowing them to focus their studies on those skills rather on memorizing the facts they need to back them up is not always needed.
Supervised exams help to avoid the risk of plagiarism or cheating, and so unrestricted access to the internet would perhaps not be the best approach. However, the basic principles behind testing skills do not mean students need to be examined while in complete isolation.
Many programs already use some open-book exams, where students can bring particular materials into the exam hall with them. Their exam, therefore, focuses on their ability to use those materials in an educated and skilled way. It could well be that as exams catch up with the changing access to information the online world offers, these exams will become much more common.
This guest post brought to you by Stephanie who enjoys blogging about everything from social media to finding mousetrap reviews and razor reviews online.