As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to challenge academic integrity in higher education, Dr. Joshua Krook, a law lecturer at the University of Adelaide, has proposed a return to oral examinations, a method of assessment with a rich history, as reported by The Conversation. Oral exams, also known as viva voce (Latin for “by live voice”), have been used for centuries to evaluate students’ knowledge, understanding, and critical thinking abilities.
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Oral exams have been a fundamental component of higher education, especially in esteemed historical institutions like the University of Bologna, the University of Paris, and the University of Oxford. They gained prominence in medieval Europe, where students were assessed by their professors through face-to-face discussions that tested their understanding of complex concepts and their ability to articulate ideas.
Traditional assessment methods are being called into question, as essay AI writer tools pose a threat to the value of education. Dr. Krook’s solution is to bring back oral exams, as they require real-time, direct interactions that render AI-assisted cheating nearly impossible. Beyond preventing cheating, oral exams also offer the advantage of stimulating critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In contrast to written exams, which often emphasize memorization and regurgitation, verbal tests challenge students to think on their feet and demonstrate their understanding of abstract ideas.
Dr. Krook refers to a 2019 research conducted at the University of Oxford, which demonstrated that students involved in oral exams experienced enhanced self-assurance and superior overall scholastic achievement compared to their counterparts who underwent written examinations.
Despite these potential benefits, some educators argue that oral exams’ drawbacks are evident as well. They can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, making their implementation on a large scale quite challenging. However, the growing danger of AI-assisted cheating demands that universities reevaluate their assessment practices and adapt to the changing landscape of higher education.
In light of the AI-assisted cheating epidemic, we have compiled a table highlighting the pros and potential cons of implementing oral exams more actively in higher education:
|Minimizes cheating: oral exams require face-to-face interactions, making it difficult for students to use AI tools like ChatGPT to cheat.||Time-consuming: oral exams can be resource-intensive for both students and faculty, requiring more time and effort than written exams.|
|Promotes critical thinking: unlike written exams, which often emphasize memorization, oral exams encourage students to think on their feet and engage in problem-solving.||Subjectivity: the potential for bias may be higher in oral exams, as the evaluation is based on the examiner’s impressions of the student’s performance.|
|Builds confidence: a 2019 study from the University of Oxford found that students who participated in oral exams reported increased confidence and better overall academic performance.||Accessibility: oral exams may not be suitable for all students, particularly those with speech or hearing impairments, social anxiety, or language barriers.|
|Personalized assessment: oral exams allow for a more tailored evaluation of students, taking into account their unique thought processes and communication styles.|
As the debate surrounding the return to oral exams continues, universities must weigh the benefits of fostering meaningful learning experiences and preserving academic integrity against the potential logistical challenges of implementing oral exams. With the future of higher education at stake, it remains to be seen whether oral exams will reestablish themselves as the new gold standard in the age of AI.
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