Are offline exams better? No.

This is a continuation of a series. The first post, this Monday, asked how we might transition from online to offline education when (if?) the pandemic ends. The second post was about me trying to figure out in which ways offline classes are better. This post is about me trying to figure out ways in which offline examinations are better.

Offline examinations, in the context of this post, are defined as examinations in which students sit in a classroom for three hours, and write detailed answers using pen and paper, without having access to their textbooks or to internet enabled devices.

They aren’t better.

That’s it.

I cannot tell you how strongly I feel about this. Note that this post is about higher education, not about school level exams. But that being said, the idea that an offline examination replicates real life conditions is patently ridiculous.

When was the last time, in the course of your normal workday, that you sat in a room in which you couldn’t access the help of your colleagues or the internet, with only pen and paper, and did work? And even if you were to say to me that such a thing has happened, did that work involve regurgitating what you already know? Or was that work about generating new ideas without being distracted by the internet?

Offline examinations are not about generating new ideas. They aren’t about testing how well you would do in a realistic work setting. I honestly do not know what they are about, and I cannot for the life of me understand why they existed up until covid-19 came knocking.

Offline examinations need to go, and I would love to learn why I am wrong about this. Please help me understand.