In a Wired World, the Blue Book Hangs On
Eday — the worry of being unprepared, lack of sleep, sweaty palms as
very UNC student remembers exam
the professor announces “five minutes
remaining.” But there is one exam experience that’s nearly as universal: the blue book.
What else can you get at Student Stores
for 15 cents? An exam day necessity, blue
books have changed little over the years.
The small, thin pages with laughably large
lines are still around. Cramping fingers and
hands, broken pencil points, the last-minute
sprint to get a book before the big test —
all these things have persisted since, seemingly, the very first exam.
But the blue book isn’t much for cut
and paste. New computer software being
used by some UNC professors may be a
way to bring exams into the 21st century.
One program, Securexam, enables students
to type essays and written responses, and it
disables other applications so students can’t
access notes or the Web for
information. In other words,
Securexam is Microsoft Word
with honor code enforcement.
The University’s initial
use of the program seemed a
logical transition. Students
use laptops to write papers,
type e-mail and send instant
messages — why not use
them for exams? Typing is
second nature to most students, so it seems natural for
them to use their laptops on
“There’s no reason not to
use the technology if it
exists,” said Zack Fisher, who
provides technical support
to Securexam users at
UNC. Fisher said professors find it easier to keep
‘I liked using Securexam when I was
were any technology flub-ups, then it
actually taking tests because there’s
always the ability to backspace, and
in the blue books you don’t have
that. A downside was that if there
required an IT person to come in.’
track of and grade papers and that students
have an easier time organizing and editing
What started as a small pilot program a
few years ago is now being used by about
30 professors and more than 5,000 students, said Andy Lang, director of the
Office of Arts and Sciences Information
Services. OASIS agreed to try out the pro-
gram after it was spotted by a group within
the information technology department.
Two years ago, UNC purchased enough
licenses for all students and faculty to be
able to use Securexam.
Lang mostly hears good reviews from
student users, he said, such as junior
Catherine Moore, who used Securexam in
an English class.
“I liked using Securexam when I was
actually taking tests because there’s always
the ability to backspace, and in the blue
books you don’t have that,” Moore said.
Moore also liked feeling she could write
more coherently, she said, and did not have
to spend time erasing mistakes. But she also
thinks the program has a few flaws.
“A downside was that if there were any
technology flub-ups, then it required an IT
person to come in.”
Moore said she felt some added anxiety
because of the program. For some students,
Securexam may add stress
to the process of turning in
Imagine not being able
to tell whether your exam
was in the professor’s hands.
No matter how unlikely the
chance of an exam getting
lost with Securexam, the
mere thought of it is
enough to make most students nervous.
“I didn’t encounter any
problems,” Moore said, “but
it made me more nervous
in the end because there’s a
process to make sure it gets
sent to the professor, and
I’m not physically handing
something in. You’re leav-
ing a lot up to technol-
Faculty are relieved