Sunday, August 20, 2017
Last updated: 2 years ago

Exam database in operation, but lacks content

An exam database has finally been created at UBC, but is it operational? Illustration Julian Yu / The Ubyssey

An exam database has finally been created at UBC, but is it operational? Illustration Julian Yu / The Ubyssey

Last year, UBC saw the implementation of an online archive for old exams, but the website still lacks content.

The database is a collaborative effort between the AMS and the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT). According to AMS Associate VP Academic Daniel Munro, the CTLT handles the technical aspects while the AMS oversees the general strategy and publicity of the project.

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In its current state, the database is sparsely populated by a handful of exams. Munro attributed the website’s slow development to several issues.

“First, using the database takes extra time for faculty who are already very busy using Connect and other course websites,” said Munro. “Second, many faculty who already provide extensive exam prep material to their students do so through Connect and we often hear them saying that this database is redundant.”

Having already spent approximately $80,000 on this resource, the AMS hope to convince professors of the benefits of using the database.

“Content in the database can be available to the broader community … both in and outside a course,” said Munro. “Most importantly, pointing students to a resource that is specific to exam prep content is a way to open conversations with students about assessment practices and expectations.”

According to Munro, the AMS plans to move forward by focusing on more “detailed, one-on-one conversations with professors” as opposed to sending out mass emails.

Richard Anstee, a math professor at UBC, echoed AMS concerns. The new database is particularly redundant with regards to the math department, according to Anstee.

“Our department uploads a huge number of exams on our website. It has a relatively large array of past exams … as early as 2004, 2005 — which is very comprehensive. I’m very pleased with what math has done,” said Anstee.

However, the problem with the database goes beyond professors’ reluctance to work with yet another website. According to Anstee, “Nobody really knows about the new database.”

The structure of an exam archive has existed for years despite the recent facelift.

In the paper age, print copies of UBC exams were on file and available to students at Brock Hall. This database was then digitized and moved to UBC Library’s cIRcle repository — somewhere along the way, the files were lost.

“Nobody seems to know how to access them anymore … the university — or the AMS — lost them. Given the past history of this university initiative, we would loath to give up control of it for fear that it would be lost,” said Anstee. “I can see some merit in [a universal database], but we already do it in a different way. Why would we upload?”

Evidently, UBC professors’ lukewarm responses to the database is not simply a product of ignorance and apathy, but mistrust as well. Although student support for the database has been strong, the AMS will need to help faculty see its advantages before real progress is made.