A question from The Chronicle:
Yes and no.
I do not believe that closed book exams are necessary for most courses. For most people, it is a far more important skill to know where to find the information they need to answer their question and to have the skills to evaluate the information.
At the same time, I teach a 5/5 load with six different preps in rotation. To devise a course that does not rely on closed book exams at all seems overwhelming at the moment.
I have different rules depending on the course. In an online course, the exams are timed and multiple choice, yet students can use their books and notes (just not each other). In upper-level face-to-face courses, I prefer giving students essay questions ahead of time and then randomly selecting from those questions, the questions they get on exam day. I really like this exam method. This strategy combines open book with closed book. Students have all the informationt they need to prepare, yet, have to rely on memory at the time of the exam. These are essay exams, however, and I have to account for grading time. My final exams are typically scheduled over the same last two days of exam week without a full 24 hours for me to get final grades submitted for the last scheduled exam. Due to the time crunch, I opted for multiple choice, closed book exams again this semester.
Honestly, exams in most sociology courses make very little sense. I would much rather students spend time writing well-developed research papers that draw on the material we cover in class. Perhaps phasing out exams should be part of my five-year teaching plan?