The global higher education landscape is significantly impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the majority of the universities now follow an online or hybrid mode of delivery. This presents substantial challenges for universities, particularly to conduct examinations, as traditionally most exams were conducted physically on campus. During the first wave of the pandemic, many universities had no option and were forced to move online in a very short period of time, causing universities also to conduct exams online without transforming pedagogy and the structure/s of closed-book exams. Inevitably, in non-proctored and unregulated examinations, this allowed room for students to collaborate and share material during online exams without being noticed by an invigilator as in the case of physical exams. Online exams, also leave room for students to find information online which made preventing plagiarism a significant challenge. This paper investigates the practices used in both closed-book and open-book exams and identifies the challenges associated with the transition to online exams. It also identifies potential ways forward for future online exams, while minimizing opportunities for students to collaborate, plagiarise and use online material. The findings of this study reveal that online examinations affect teachers and students differently: while teachers have mixed feelings about online exams, students are anxious about their grades and the technical hassle they experience in online exams. While viva has emerged as a popular form of alternative assessment, students still feel the need of returning to physical exams. None of the teachers who participated in this study discussed a psychosocial approach to education and exams in this pandemic. We conclude this study on the note that there is a need for the collaboration of social scientists, psychologists, psychosocial specialists, educationists, and humanities scholars/humanists for better educational policy and pedagogical practices during the pandemic.


This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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Gamage, K., Pradeep, R. & de Silva, E. 2022, 'Rethinking assessment: the future of examinations in higher education', Sustainability, 14(6), article no: 3552. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063552

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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