Nova College

From pilot to full implementation in the Economics domain 


The first students at vocational school Nova College who completed their exams digitally, were those enrolled in Retail education. This was back in 2020. Today, all courses within the school’s Economics domain are examined digitally with Schoolyear using Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). “We started small, and continued to roll-out further and further. This approach was just the right thing for our organisation”, says Michele Kulkens, project manager at Nova College.

Key takeaways

  • Solid and trustworthy security
  • High engagement shown by Schoolyear
  • Easy to implement and scale up

At Nova College, the transition from examinations on paper to digital examining on screen started with a Schoolyear pilot. This became a success, and Schoolyear was soon fullyimplemented into Nova’s digital examinations. By then, also other digital applications wereincorporated, such as Remindo for building digital exams and quizzes, and the SLO curriculum development tool.

Nova College is a vocational school in the province Noord-Holland. It serves more than 13,000 students spread over 7 locations, including 3 campuses where both education and companies cooperate. Its educational portfolio is diverse, ranging from students who find themselves with a laptop in classrooms on a daily basis, to students in the maritime programme who are offshore most of the time and maybe don’t even own a laptop.

The ending of paper exams

The urgency to move to digital exams was pushed by exam suppliers, who announced they would no longer offer paper versions and instead fully switch to digital. Nova College opted for a BYOD solution and soon found that security was a major focus. To create an environment where students couldn’t take screen shots or recordings of the exams and share that content, the vocational school turned to Schoolyear.

“We were forced to take steps. Paper exams were soon unavailable and digital exams were not yet fully secure. There were still some teachers and staff who insisted we demand from suppliers to continue offering their paper exams. But together with tech-savvy co-workers,we were able to move forward quickly.”

Always enough devices available

The discussion on whether to choose desktop computers or BYOD was settled early. Michelle explains: “We have 7 locations and already wanted to cut the number of desktop computers and downsize our computer classrooms. Fixed computers on-site are costly and less efficient. You always need someone available physically for the IT support in theseclassrooms.”

Michelle continues, “Since exams are still taking place during specific times of the year, there is a shortage of space and PCs. BYOD solves that problem, because there are as many computers as students and every classroom can be turned into a digital exam room.”

Phased rollout in three tranches

There were some challenges in the beginning: students forgetting to bring their device orinstall the necessary software, uncharged batteries or insufficient storage capacity. “But as we progressed,” Michelle explains, “students started to act proactively and learn from their peers, having everything installed already before the teacher even asked. I think this is the outcome of our phased rollout. Students were given the time to get used to this new way of examination.”

In three tranches, that ran parallel to the exam periods, digital examination was implemented within one year. And during each tranche, learnings were collected and adapted in the next.

“Our collaboration with Schoolyear was excellent. Schoolyear representatives were very committed to finding the best solutions and to adapt to our desires, such as less frequent updates. Half a year after we expressed our wish, it was realised. We felt Schoolyear listened seriously and understood our experience. I remember that you also visited our classrooms to see our daily reality.”

A personal guided introduction to Schoolyear

To ensure Schoolyear was well adopted, Nova College developed instructions, videos and training materials for students and surveillants. “I also spoke with all the education managers involved,” says Michele. “One of the questions I asked them was what their team needed. Some were already very IT savvy, others needed more guidance. In each team I joined a meeting to give a presentation about Schoolyear. We did trial tests and I was present at everyteam’s first digital exam,” Michele says.

“Lastly, we had the idea to train people who would know all the ins and outs of digital examination, and have them present at the exam events. This turned out to be unrealistic. Now, our IT service point is on stand-by during exam weeks.”

“When issues occur during exams, we have the rule of ‘one more try’: restart your own device and if that doesn’t work, we switch to a spare laptop.”

At Nova they learned that spare laptops take time to arrange. “We managed enough laptops eventually, but if we were better prepared for that, it would have been less stressful and gone more smoothly.

Individual learning paths will become prevalent

BYOD and digital examination contribute to yet another ambition of Nova College: individual learning paths. “At Nova College we are moving more towards facilitated learning paths that are unique for each student. Not only in terms of composition of the educational courses, but also in time.”

Michelle finishes by explaining, “With BYOD digital examination, it’s possible to do examsat any time and not wait for exam weeks. And maybe also students aren’t dependent on a specific location. We are not there yet, but with Schoolyear we have the foundation on whichto build this kind of flexible education.”

Wim Graas
CEO Schoolyear

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