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Effective Solutions to Lack of Access of Engineering Students in Bilkent University to the Exams of the Past Years Essay

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Students of engineering departments in Bilkent University need to study hard for their exams in order to get satisfactory grades from their departmental courses. To accomplish that, they need to solve either sample problems from their course books or questions from the exams of previous years. A preliminary survey conducted among the engineering students of Bilkent shows that the main preference of these students to get prepared for their exams is to go over the past exam questions, not to solve sample exercises from their course books, with a rate of 81. 4% [1].

Although the demand for the exam questions of the past is this much high, engineering students often face difficulties in finding them. They complain that they are not provided with sufficiently many sample exams of the past by their instructors. Figure 1 below shows the severity of the problem. Figure 1: The level of help given by the instructors to the students in this matter [1]. Under these circumstances, if the engineering students are lucky enough, they get access to past exams mostly through their elder/experienced friends, who have already taken same courses before [1].

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Not all students are this lucky, though. Acquisition of the past exam questions turns out to be quite an irritating and a serious problem among the Bilkent engineering students, as 86. 4% of the participants to the same survey emphasize [1]. In this report, an analysis of the problem briefly described above will be carried out in detail and then possible solutions to eliminate the underlying reasons will be offered.

These proposed solutions will be assessed according to their cost, sustainability, acceptability and effectiveness. Under these criteria, the best solution(s) among the alternatives will be determined, after collecting sufficient data using the research methodology that will be described. 2. 0. PROBLEM DEFINITON After some consideration, the underlying reasons of lack of access to exams of the past experienced by Bilkent engineering students can be classified under the following sub-headings. . 1. The Students’ Side The engineering students feel uneasy to share and distribute past exams publicly without their instructors’ permission, although there is not an explicit statement in the Bilkent University Student Code of Discipline that strictly declares that doing so requires a disciplinary penalty [2]. They fear that they can somehow be punished for getting involved in such an action, which would pose a serious threat to their academic life.

This fear and anxiety causes them to share these documents solely with their close friends, making them unwilling to publish in a public environment (i. e. , personal web sites, blogs and forums etc. ). For this reason, the traffic of the past exams among the students sharply decreases and the past exams becomes available only to a lucky privileged group of students, preventing the majority from getting access to them. 3. 2. The Instructors’ Side Providing students with the previous years’ exams is apparently up to the instructors of the courses.

The instructor of a given course may put several sample exams onto his/her course page or s/he may even choose not to share the past exams with the students. For there is not an officially imposed way for the instructors to handle with this matter, most of the instructors do not store the previous years’ exams and are reluctant to provide them for the students (see Figure 1 in the Introduction). 3. 0. PROPOSED SOLUTIONS In order to eliminate the reasons of this disturbing problem of engineering students, the following offerings might be the solution(s). . 3. Encouragement of Students to Share among Themselves * The university administration can announce that distribution of the past exams in public without permission of an instructor does not count as an action requiring disciplinary penalty. By this way, students may feel much relaxed and encouraged to share the material they have on their own computers in online forums, blogs and personal web sites without a second thought. * Moodle can be a nice way for students to share whatever past exams they have.

4. 4.A New Regulation for the Instructors to Provide Past Exams * The university administration can rearrange its regulations so that it can ensure the engineering students are provided with sufficiently many past exams (at least five samples for each type of exam) by their instructors. This rearrangement can be made either as a recommendation or enforcement. * The newcomer instructors would be unable to provide their past exams in this case, since there would exist none. To overcome such a difficulty, the past exams may be handed over by the experienced instructors to the new ones upon their arrival.

5. Establishment of an Online Exam Database * A central exam database steered by Bilkent Computer Center (BCC) can be established. Supported by a regulation dictated by the university administration, each instructor would be held responsible for uploading their exams (preferably in the PDF form) onto the database. * A subdomain for this purpose can be reserved, such as exams. bilkent. edu. tr, to which students are able to access any minute from anywhere and to go over the past years’ uploaded questions without any difficulty. With such a website in hand, it would further be possible to sort the exams by year, subject and type (i. e. , midterm, final or quiz) to make the database as user-friendly as possible. 4. 0. CRITERIA FOR ASSESSING SOLUTIONS * Cost: Storing all past exams of 430 sections for offered CS, EEE, IE and ME courses in a year [3] and publishing them online would not be free. Both the websites built and the servers for storage purposes would come at a cost. * Sustainability: Both the servers and the websites in the solution of central database may sometimes crash and go under maintenance, causing sustainability problems.

As for the other proposed solutions, whether they can be maintained over a long period of time effectively should be considered. * Acceptability: To what degree the instructors would greet the idea of being held responsible for supplying their students with the past exams or letting the students share them online raises concerns of acceptability. * Effectiveness: Even if the students are encouraged to share the past exams among themselves, they might not have any samples to do so. So, to what extent the proposed solutions would ease the access to the past exams should be examined carefully. . 0. PROPOSED RESEARCH METHODOLOGY In order to evaluate the proposed solutions according to the given criteria, the proposed research methodology is expressed below. * File sizes of past exams in PDF forms will be roughly determined by examining the past exams found so that the overall storage capacity required annually could be determined.

* The costs of the servers and storage devices will be searched through the Internet. * A further survey among the engineering students in Bilkent will be carried out to see what their opinions are about the solutions of the problem. An interview with Caner Asbas, a sophomore EE student who developed a project called “ExamBank” in his freshman year to overcome this problem, will be conducted.

REFERENCES

Survey conducted among 59 students currently studying in the engineering departments of Bilkent University, June 19-20, 2012 [2] “Bilkent University Student Code of Discipline”, http://www. bilkent. edu. tr/bilkent/admin -unit/hukukm/edisiplin. html, Accessed June 22, 2012 [3] “Student Academic Information Registration System”, https://stars. bilkent. edu. tr/home page/offerings. php, Accessed June 22, 2012