A Digital Admission Test: The Journalist Education at the Danish School of Media and Journalism
Every year at the end of April or early May, one headline is guaranteed to figure in several Danish media outlets: “Can You Get into the Danish School of Media and Journalism?”
The cause of this annual media event is the once-a-year admission test for the journalist education at the Danish School of Media and Journalism (DMJX). This admission test has an iconic status in Danish history of education, as it is both challenging and varied each year, and entrance to the school is highly sought after by many aspiring journalists. Each year, between 1300 and 1500 people begin the application procedure, but only around 225 make the cut.
DMJX uses WISEflow to manage the majority of their exam processes including the admission test. WISEflow is built for a wide array of exam forms, but admission tests are structurally different from traditional exams. Whereas an exam is usually a proficiency test in a single subject followed by an assessment of the student’s performance, an admission test is a long separation process to find the appropriate applicants.
The admission test at DMJX is highly varied and sees the applicants through 4 to 5 different subjects before the final applicants are found. On the day of the admission test, more than 800 applicants are completing the test in WISEflow.
We had a talk with Solveig Schmidt, Quality Manager, Karin Løntoft Degn-Andersen, Chief of Student Administration and Anne-Cathrine Aune List, academic worker in the Study Administration, to learn more about their experiences with the new digital process.
Prior to Digital Testing
The admission test at DMJX came into effect when the path to becoming a journalist went from apprenticeship to formal education in the seventies, and until 2015 the admission test was performed manually. It required a large number of working hours and thousands upon thousands of papers to be printed, shipped and transported locally. But as of 2015, DMJX digitised a large part of their process with WISEflow.
Prior to the digitisation of the admission test, the three DMJX employees had specific roles in the process, and these roles have actually not changed much after going digital, Solveig tells: “We still play our specific parts in the procedure with the same division of responsibility and the same communicative touch points. What has changed is the timetable for the process. For my part, my time schedule has changed drastically, as I no longer have to take into account the printing and revision of 1200 test sets”.
They still proofread the test sets (“of course,” as Solveig adds), but the deadline is less sensitive, as there is no need to send them for printing at an off-site location. And the overall usage of paper was becoming colossal, according to Anne-Cathrine: “Typically, we have 4-5 parts within the admission test on the test day, which meant we had to have a printed test for each part for up to 1200 applicants – and this is not even taking into account the paper the applicants produced themselves during the test.”
These extra papers had to be gathered too, adding to the already vast amount of paper handling; all of this had to be done without influencing the set time schedule for the test. And no matter the vigilance, some papers were always lost, Solveig tells. Often, applicants would accidently write the wrong numbers on their papers, so the DMJX staff had a difficult task of identifying and matching the papers with the right applicants to correct the mistake.
Besides Solveig, Karin and Anne-Cathrine themselves, there were 8-10 people in two separate locations, whose only task was to organise all the papers accumulated during the day. And after each test had concluded, all numbers had to be counted to ensure that all applicants had handed in their test. According to all three, the manual labour in connection with the admission test was simply enormous.
Today, things look different, according to Karin: “All we print today are the manuals for WISEflow. This is the change we really notice today, after the switch to a digital exam system. We do not really do much manual labour on the test day itself, which enables us to have a more complete overview of the entire process and distribute our resources better.”
Technical Elimination Is a Thing of the Past
While the reduction in usage and handling of paper is significant, it is not the only positive change DMJX has experienced.
During the admission test, it was not unusual that several applicants left discouraged due to technical difficulties. As Solveig explains: “Each year, we sent between 1 and 5 applicants home because the printers they brought were broken, they forgot the cables or they borrowed one and simply did not know how to make it work.”
Today, they send no one home because of technical issues. This may seem odd, as the technical framework has increased, but the digital aids within the WISEflow platform actually assist with avoiding technical malfunctions. Today, they can monitor the progress of each applicant, and if nothing happens, they can easily locate the person in question and help them out: “Often, it is simply a button the applicant forgot to click, but now we have the time to be able to help them with such a simple issue, and it means the world to them.”
As a part of the test, personnel from UNIwise’s Customer Support is present at both locations to help with any technical difficulties that might arise. According to Solveig, it is immensely liberating to be able to refer any applicant coming for help to the UNIwise professionals.
Implementing a Digital Assessment Platform
Our experience is that when implementing an entirely new way to conduct tests and assess exams, one user group is usually the last to be on board with the change: the assessors. It can be a challenge to get them acquainted with using the assessment tool for annotating, commenting and highlighting student exams.
For this reason, we have developed documentation for all of our tools that is quickly accessed and easily understood. At DMJX, they were very pleased with this documentation, as this structure is much more likely to be effective towards assessors, Solveig points out. Instead of long and tedious manuals, short instruction texts and videos are available for most tools and functionalities in the online help desk, allowing the assessors to address their singular difficulty quickly and easily.
DMJX has also made a move to ease the process themselves. They have made pamphlets to all their users – both applicants and assessors – which introduce the WISEflow system and the relevant functionalities for the user groups. This also makes it much faster to equip the applicants with the necessary know-how in an efficient way, as time is of the essence during the admission test.
For this reason, they have also a pre-trial for the applicants. Before the actual admission test, they have a small home assignment to hand in via WISEflow. This allows DMJX to gain some information about the applicants, but it also helps prepare the applicants for using the platform and make sure it works on their device.
Timesaving Functionalities with WISEflow
One thing that really saves resources for DMJX is the possibility of automatic scoring. In the multiple-choice module, they have developed a solid template for the ‘logic and analysis’-phase of the admission test, which can be graded automatically within WISEflow.
Creating and recycling templates is one of the possibilities within WISEflow that really provides value to DMJX. While it takes a lot of time to develop the template, the time is quickly won back, as the templates can be reused with minor alterations for several years; contrary to former years, the applicants now do not have the chance to take it with them outside of the test facility and show the format and content to next year’s applicants.
According to Solveig, these functionalities save them many hours in both the yearly creation and grading process of the tests, and it strengthens the educational value of the admission test.
Before WISEflow, the grading process was both an intricate and resource-intensive task. The language part of the admission test required three full time assessors for a week, and while the knowledge part was handled in a single day, it took 10 helpers to grade within the allotted time frame. These processes are all automated today. And while we are still not fully compliant with the parameters of DMJX’s admission test, we continue our development process to accommodate their needs: “More and more functionalities are added that makes things easier for us”, as Karin tells. DMJX’s experience with WISEflow is summed up in a final note from Solveig: “In the end, we save resources and we get a qualitatively improved admission test.”
 While the shift from apprenticeship to formal education emphasised the theoretical component of the journalistic craft, the practical dimension still plays a large part; the students have an 18 months long internship at a media outlet during their education.