Advice for teachers in digital exams

Teaching has changed to online formats and this has had major ramifications technically, organizationally and in the "mind-set" of teachers as well as in terms of exams. The exam is a situation where both teachers and students are keen to perform well and excited, or perhaps even nervous. With new forms of exam now being implemented digitally, this can add extra pressure on students. Because online exams represent a new territory, we need to think about what we do and how to run the process while holding a professional exam.

Therefore, here is some advice on how to reflect on and tackle the new situation - and thus both ensure a good process for yourself as a teacher - but also as safe and good an environment as possible for the students to excel.

The good advice mainly concerns you as a teacher (examiner / examiner). I.e. your ability to prepare and create a good framework, your role and appearance as well as your mindset, and the psychosocial and relational aspects of the new exam. You can find more technical advice on the process itself, platform, IT, rules here.

You are starting point - Reflect on the following

  • the "ordinary" physical form of oral exams is "silent knowledge" for us. Often as teachers, we have reviewed them ourselves numerous times and many teachers have had several students for oral exams. Certain process and handling of the digital exam therefore may be automated over time and old habits might be part of your behavior.
  • It is the reverse of the digital oral exam. Consider it a bit like your first test drive of a car. You need to concentrate on each gearshift and may have difficulty "steering" and talking at the same time. Therefore, it requires preparation and "awareness" of the process.
  • Your knowledge of the platform, functionalities and rules in this set-up is an important part of this. Therefore, get to know these elements well - and test out the technique and walkthrough to make it feel more secure. In other words, you should "not look at the gear when shifting it", but could both look up, be present and focus on the technical aspects while also running the process with the people involved Examiner, external examiner and student.
  • Join CESU's online exam workshop to learn more about the technique.
  • The better prepared you are, the better process you can create for the student, so that he / she can focus on his / her academic performance and just not be disturbed or maybe even stress out because of the new set-up.
  • There will be a big difference in how students view and tackle the digital exam. For some, it will be an added stress element, for others it means less because they are “digital natives”. Be aware, however, that both the cautious and nervous students (and perhaps over-prepared) and the digital native, who may be more nonchalant, may be surprised or experienced problems, in their own ways.
  • See yourself as the guide and facilitator of the process! So be prepared to help different types of students through the digital exam by just being well prepared, having the overview and guide, supporting or considering in different ways. I.e. both could support and guide it respectively. Experienced / inexperienced and secure / insecure.

The role of the examiner and the examiner

  • In the digital exam, it is also important that the roles between examiner, examiner and examiner are clear. It is important not to underestimate this, as it is precisely the well-known structure that one can experience from a traditional exam situation - and which can contribute to recognition and security. It is both about an essential expectation balance between the examiner and the examiner before the exam and a clear statement about roles and process when the exam begins. This includes
    1. 1. Expectation sharing in advance, about how the exam will take place (the process) and how to expect the student to act
    2. 2. That the examiner is a facilitator and assessor and that the examiner is solely an assessor
    3. 3. That the examiner also has the task of ensuring that the student gets a fair and impartial assessment. I.e. that the test is conducted in accordance with set goals and requirements.
    4. 4. On what terms and when will you facilitate for the censor to break in and or ask questions?


How can you prepare yourself and the students?

  • A basic principle is that you must make sure in advance that the students know about the academic learning objectives that are being tested and how the specific design (assignment formulation, questions, etc.) of the exam relates to these. This advice may be obvious and simple, but think of it as more important now because it can give the student extra security, which many students may need.
  • In addition, make sure that the students are well informed about the technical aspect of the digital exam. Equipment, process, functionalities, engineering, special procedures, rules, etc. Remember information and review of what is going to happen and how possible. Problems or irregularities are handled.
  • It is important that students get the impression that there is a plan, that it is controlled and that you as an examiner have an overview, take responsibility and manage the process. It should create the same kind of "prior knowledge" and understanding of this exam that they usually have for the physical exam.
  • Consider how you can recreate the same formal, safe and familiar exam room that the student knows from physical exams. For example, the way to greet, present the participants, tell what is going to happen, how it is practically done and how the exam will be conducted. For example, hold a digital exam that is similar to what they will experience for the real exam.
  • Also give "emergency instructions" such as if the technique fails, then we do so so that you can also create some calm about it.
  • A good idea might also be to communicate to the student: "We are all new to this set-up", and those small mistakes, breaks must be accepted and will not affect the process or outcome.

Think extra about verbal and nonverbal communication (body language)

  • Although not a rule, let us say that the majority of our communication is nonverbal, i.e. our body language, while less is explicitly verbal. It is especially important when we are not present in a room and can decode each other's body language and sense the interaction in the room. Like the video format, it makes it difficult to read the fine facial mimicry.
  • Be aware that you only see you in a “passport photo format”. This means that you only have that part of the body available to support your verbal communication.
  • A general rule is that an open, upright, possibly. Slightly forward-leaning body posture, head tilted slightly, is more positive, friendly, and engaged than a closed, stiff or laid-back, which may be perceived as distant, indifferent, and unengaged.
  • Think about your body language, gestures, facial mimicry, voice, etc. and make sure your body language is calm, conscious, and supports your verbal language. This is how we seem credible and create a safe atmosphere.
  • Be aware of your mimicry. Do you frown or smile? Are the mouth folds down or up? Do you mess up your hair, or get to your face? Looking down or looking dismissively away? Think about what this body language can signal or do to the student.
  • Remember that body language can be both too much and too little. Too many gesticulations with the hands can be disruptive and communicate a sense of uneasiness, just as a pair of crossed arms can seem unfriendly or distant. Conversely, too passive one body language may seem uninvolved and even rude, and one may be left wondering if the other is actively listening to and engaging in the conversation, just as the verbal language may lose impact or meaning because it is not supported in the body language?
  • Go for a calm use of hands / arms that can show commitment and kindness as well as emphasize one's oral communication.
  • Think about how you can digitally compensate for the limited body language with the help of acknowledging and present gestures. For example, come up with acclaiming sounds like "hmm", say "yes", "ok", "fine", "thank you" and nod or smile approvingly, approvingly or encouragingly. These small communicative elements can compensate for much of what we normally communicate when we physically meet for the exam and can read each other's body language fully.
  • Of course, the same uncertainties regarding verbal and nonverbal communication also apply to the student, which can also cause you problems decoding what is meant, alluded to, etc. If you have any doubts about what the student is communicating, please ask him / her to elaborate, put a few more words on. Let the uncertainty benefit the student by giving extra time and ensuring that you understand statements correctly.

Language and voice

  • As a starting point, it is important that your speaker / headset work optimally so that the sound is good. A headset is the best solution for good sound.
  • Next, think about speaking clearly and clearly with natural tone, volume, melody, speed of voice, and try to avoid speaking too fast, loud, indistinct or monotonous.
  • Some tend to “hide a little” and talk low in a video call, while others tend to speak too loud, perhaps almost “shout”. Think about how you can speak as naturally as possible and ask if possible the others in the video call about whether the audio is ok whether you speak too loud or low if in doubt. It will also make it easier for the student to do the same, and it can create a less tense atmosphere for you all.

Background, surroundings and appearance

  • Your background and the environment you send from also communicate. Therefore, choose a place that is nice for you to sit, but also remember that it must be an undisturbed, neutral place where the surroundings "do not noise" - neither literally nor in the transferred sense.
  • The same goes for your attire. It also communicates. Put on your hair and straighten the glasses before pressing "video on".
  • Many people sit and arrange the hairstyle when they are first on - and it interferes, may seem awkward and not present because one concentrates on one's appearance (the video image of one's self) and not the interaction and communication that takes place.
  • To better yourself and act convincingly on video - try to film yourself when talking and acting in a video call. Observe yourself, or have a colleague give you feedback on how you work on video - in terms of your voice, body language and gestures. Then try to abstract from your own image on the screen, focusing instead on the person (s) you are even talking to, thus increasing the degree of presence.

Digital exam requires discipline and focus

  • Online meeting / digital exam requires great discipline from all participants because it is difficult to hear each other if you speak at the same time, let the other one speak out, and then ask your question or comment. In digital exam, one must pay extra attention to so-called "voice trips" - i.e. who speaks and when the other takes over.
  • Use physical gestures if you want to say something, have a comment etc. A good idea is to mark by raising your finger, holding your hand or the like.
  • Look into the camera of the person (s) you are talking to - as if to make “eye contact”. It also helps the person speaking if you show your attention and presence by looking into the camera. You can also say, "Yes now I look at you" and then talk directly to the person. It is also a way of explaining presence.
  • A lack of attention, e.g. by looking away or down (checking emails, other devices, or looking at your own video image) can be registered much more than you think, so be aware of this, and concentrate on the digital exam. Stay focused!

Breaks, hesitation and time-out

  • Do not be afraid of (minor) breaks. One thing is the small normal breaks in an exam situation where both the student and the examiner have to look at papers etc. They can seem stressful elongated especially for the student. When the exam is held digitally, this can be an additional challenge. There may be additional technical elements that require time, just as "silence" may seem even stranger in a digital space. Remember that you are here as a role model and that it may be a good idea to put forth that it is ok with small breaks that you can ask for one, and it is also recommended that you explicitly say that you should have a moment to orientate or get in place technically.
  • Think about how you can actively help the student if they hold breaks or hesitate. Ask in, but above all, try to provide space and exhibit calm and presence as this can help calm the student. Here it is also good to say aloud that it is new to everyone and that we sometimes grope or tease the technical.
  • Show the student that it does not "pull down" - or destroy the examination - that there are minor errors, technical problems, etc. Of course, if it is not about professional aspects.
  • In the case of poor sound, you can repeat what you have said or ask if a question has been heard, for example, if in doubt. You can also to make sure if you have heard or understood what the student has said, in your own words, tell (repeat) how you heard and then ask if it is understood correctly.
  • If problems occur along the way, use time-outs. Say: "We just take a short time-out" and get control of ... "Or, for example, ask the student:" Do you need 20 seconds to get control, look at ... "Be acknowledging, solution-oriented - and verbally and nonverbally emphasize that it is ok.


  • The basics of good communication are listening and being an empathetic, active and present listener. One of the best things you can do when communicating with another person - even in an exam situation - is to be present. That is, be present i.e. with gestures, body language, and listen to it empathically with all your attention to what is being said.
  • Show verbally and non-verbally to the student that even if you do not have a physical space, you do your best to create a safe, professional and psychologically safe space for the exam.

"Do not's"

  • Watch out for sarcasm, allusions or agreed jokes. They do not belong to the exam at all, but be aware that it may be even more difficult to decode digitally and when you do not have the physical presence and can read body language and weather the mood in the room.
  • Do not sit drumming with your fingers on the table, click with a ballpoint pen, with your mouse, browse papers, and jumble with service, etc. if your microphone is on. These sounds can be loud for the participants in the vocation, destroy concentration, and create stress in the student. So be aware of any sounds where you sit and "mute" yourself if there are uwanted sounds.