Posted by: rmostell | June 29, 2008 Part 2

At my institution (Keck School of Medicine of USC) we “bank” our questions and do not wittingly give them to the medical students. After each test, students are given feedback and the opportunity to challenge each question. At a later time, students may also review their previous tests. However, they are never given personal possession of the test items which are considered property of the faculty and university. Although this is not my policy, it’s done for a “good reason”. It is extremely difficult to generate and maintain high quality exam items especially in the environment of the medical school (many different basic science and clinical classes, many different instructors). Over the years the faculty have honed their questions through objective performance statistics and student feedback. The questions have also been extensively reviewed by the faculty making sure that all questions are clear, unambiguous and actually test the principles that match our specific learning goals and the overall goals of the curriculum. In a practical sense, it’s almost impossible to create a new set of test items every time a test is given. So if a student or faculty would post these exam items on, a tremendous amount of effort would be required of the faculty to regenerate suitable exam items and the students would suffer because the quality of the new items would never match that of the questions that have been carefully cultivated over time through faculty and student participation.

USC Courseware Policy – My institution has developed a “Courseware Policy” that governs the ownership of all course materials produced by the faculty. This includes class notes, slides, handouts, syllabi, online materials, etc. In short, the policy says that the faculty member owns these materials unless a significant amount of university resources were used. This seems like a reasonable policy and perhaps even generous on the part of the university. Thus, the faculty, not the students, own all courseware materials generated for teaching all courses in the university. Without permission from the faculty owner, students should not copy or distribute these materials (including test items) to others.

My own test items: As stated in an earlier blog, Sharing, Freedom and Openness, I have chosen to share all of my course materials including past exam items not only with my students at USC but with all students and faculty worldwide. To me, this seems like a reasonable approach, to share all of my knowledge with others. After all, where did I learn this information? Did I just make it up on my own?


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