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Upgraded DS-Exams service for Examinations with Adjustments

UIS provides the University’s Board of Examinations with a bespoke desktop solution for enabling students with additional needs to sit their exams using a computer instead of handwriting their answers. The system has just been upgraded for the forthcoming 2016 examinations period.

The DS-Exams service was originally created by the Computing Service, over a decade ago. Last year, it enabled 254 students to take 1,096 exams, covering 572 different examination papers.

The current DS-Exams service was trialled during exams last year, and will be in full production for this year’s exams. The service has undergone extensive improvements to the underlying architecture to ensure the high availability and security of the system; 8 paired servers now support the service, ensuring dual-redundancy for no downtime during the exam period. New for 2015/6 AY is the improved Invigilator's control panel.

The desktop system runs a Windows 7 desktop with a minimum of software. All but the necessary features locked-down. Partially-sighted users can vary the colours and sizes of fonts for legibility, however, and language options remain available in Word, although assistive tools such as the grammar checker in Word are disabled.

The DS-Exams service comprises three elements: dedicated classroom facilities in the city centre with MCS workstations to run the service, the UIS-developed examinations application used by students, and the Invigilator control panel. Students use a bespoke Word 2013 document template, and their files are auto-saved every 2 minutes to dedicated examination file servers.

The system will be on display at the annual Examinations Open Day, held late April before the May exam period. The event gives all students who have registered for Examinations with Adjustments the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the procedure, and create a Word template that suits their individual requirements, and set up any keyboard shortcuts that they will need.

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