UK's Cambridge University may soon scrap hand written exams in favour of laptops, iPads

Cambridge University is one of the most prestigious institutions in the world (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )

Delhi, India Sep 10, 2017, 11.31 AM (IST)

The UK's prestigious Cambridge University is now considering doing away with the practice of handwritten exams. The authorities are currently in talks to replace the 800-year-old tradition of writing exams with laptops or iPads. 

This is as a result of falling standards of writing style among students. 

The academic board feels that "a growing reliance on laptops has led to students’ writing becoming increasingly illegible". 

As reported by The Telegraph, Cambridge University has launched a consultation on the topic as part of its "digital education strategy".

The university has already started with an exam typing scheme in the History and Classics faculties earlier this year. 

A part of the pilot programme, Dr Sarah Pearsall, a senior lecturer at Cambridge’s History Faculty said that handwriting is becoming a "lost art" among the current generation of students.

She said, "Fifteen or twenty years ago students routinely have written by hand several hours a day but now they write virtually nothing by hand except exams. As a faculty, we have been concerned for years about the declining handwriting problem. There has definitely been a downward trend. It is difficult for both the students and the examiners as it is harder and harder to read these scripts."

This move from handwritten to iPads/laptops could actually help students and teachers both as according to Pearsall, an increasing number of scripts have to be transcribed centrally now.

It means that students with illegible writing are forced to come back to college during the summer holidays to read their answers aloud in the presence of two university administrators. She calls the move “extraordinarily commendable”.

But there are also those who aren't very happy about the news. Some teachers have voiced concerns over losing the art of handwriting altogether. 

Tracey Trussell, a handwriting expert at the British Institute of Graphologists, urged Cambridge to “make sure that students continue to write by hand, particularly in lectures”.

She said, “Certainly with social media, iPads, and all the rest of it, people do clearly use keyboards much more than they would hand write. It’s vital that people continue to write by hand.”

There are also concerns that schools could follow Cambridge's example and scrap handwriting. 

There is also concern that schools could follow Cambridge’s example by moving away from handwriting.

A spokesman for Cambridge University was quoted: "It's prompted by students raising concerns that they rarely handwrite during their studies. As part of this, a consultation is being conducted among students on whether computers should be allowed in exams. The consultation is ongoing and will be used to inform future decision-making on the issue."

 

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