Oral Exams in Shift to Remote Learning


In this experience report paper we present our experience with the development of oral assessments as final examinations in three introductory computing courses. The choice of this type of summative assessment was prompted by the emergency remote instruction instituted in the middle of the Spring 2020 semester, across colleges and universities in the U.S., due to the coronavirus pandemic. The principles that guided our oral assessment design were: to develop a more comprehensive measure of student competence and mitigate exam cheating; to facilitate communication and workplace skills through student-teacher interaction; and to alleviate negative emotions associated with traditional summative assessments.

We report on the oral assessment features and logistics. To gain insights into the impact of this form of assessment, we conducted a student survey to learn about their emotional reactions and perceptions of assessment effectiveness. Mean scores of positive emotions (enjoyment, hope, pride, relief) were higher than negative emotions (anger, anxiety, hopelessness) across all three courses. Students found the personalized, interactive nature of the exam helpful in advancing their learning and communication skills. Many believed the oral exam to be a more accurate assessment of their knowledge than traditional methods. Additionally, feedback from the two instructors who implemented the oral assessments indicates that they enjoyed the experience and will use the lessons learned to improve the use of oral assessments in the future.

Publication Date


Journal Title

SIGCSE '21: Proceedings of the 52nd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type

Conference Proceeding