Handwriting or typing exams – can we give students the choice?

Previous work at the University of Edinburgh has explored the possibility of bringing computers into the traditional essay-examination context, and has presented initial reactions from students (Mogey & Sarab, 2006, Mogey et al 2007). This paper develops that work and describes a designed experiment intended to tease out critical differences between handwritten and typewritten student scripts and the students approaches to writing or typing exams. The study takes student scripts generated in a mock examination using the format of the student’s choice (either typed or handwritten) and transcribes them into the other format. All scripts are then double blind marked, and other quantitative data such as number of words written can be easily gathered. Qualitative data has also been collected about the students’ attitude to and confidence in computers. Analysis will enable us to take an informed decision about the equity of implementing computer based essay examinations on an institutional scale.