COVID-19: Arrangements for summative assessment at UEA COVID-19: Arrangements for summative assessment at UEA

Updated 02.04.2020

As the COVID-19 coronavirus situation continues to evolve we recognise that this is an anxious time for you, particularly in relation to upcoming assessments and exams.

In light of the restrictions in place, we aim to only assess those things that are essential to the learning outcomes of courses rather than individual modules. We are currently working through what this will mean on a course by course basis, so please bear with us while this work is ongoing. All assessment will be on Blackboard and there will be no need for students to come to campus.

For students on courses regulated by professional and statutory regulatory bodies (PSRBs), for example courses in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, in social work and pharmacy amongst others, any changes may need to be negotiated and agreed with those regulating bodies.

You’ll hear directly from your School of Study in respect of your assessments and exams in early April. In the meantime, try to keep up with your studies online.

We hope to have updated our systems, such that you will be able to see what assessment you have on E-vision, by 5pm on Monday 6th April. We can only make changes to Blackboard once the system is updated and so for a while after the 6th April you will experience differences between information held on E-vision and that on Blackboard.  We aim to have updated Blackboard such that it reflects the information on E-vision by Friday 17th April.  If there are delays caused by our negotiations with PSRBs your School will inform you.

Our principles

Please be reassured that we have you best interests at heart. We are adopting measures that maintain academic standards and so protect the value of your degrees while recognising that students are having their learning and assessment impacted by the COVID-19 situation.

Our over-riding objective is to protect the educational interests of students and provide opportunities for all students to progress to their next year of study, or to compete and graduate.

This means:

1) We will give priority to activities which support final year students to complete their studies.

2) Assessment will only be undertaken where it is necessary and in the interests of students to do so.

3) Courses which are subject to regulation by an outside body (for example courses in nursing and teacher training) have been asked to consider these principles but may make alternative arrangements as required.

4) We will aim to reduce the number of assessments you have to do wherever possible.

5) Any amendment to assessment delivery and/or design will be designed to meet the needs of all students.

6) Any changes to assessment activity should not place unreasonable additional demands upon students and staff workload at this stressful time.

Our 10 point plan

We are receiving queries about how we are protecting students’ interests and managing assessments.  Some universities have said that they will use a student’s Semester One average mark as a year average should their actual year average be lower following the completion of their Spring semester and we are being asked about this approach. 

UEA’s academic year and assessment structure is distinctive.  We have a tradition of providing feedback on formative work, have fewer summative items earlier in the academic year and do not have a winter exam period in December or January.  Therefore, many of our students have fewer summative marks from Semester One and, when the Government’s lockdown happened, they still had the majority of their assessments ahead of them.  (We recognize that those students on programmes in medicine, health, pharmacy etc. that are regulated by a Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body [PSRBs] have summative assessments that occur across the academic year).

Therefore, after careful consideration, including liaising with a range of other universities and with other national higher education bodies, we are introducing a set of measures to ensure that students are not disadvantaged and there is a ‘safety net’ in place to protect their degree classification. Our measures have also been designed in discussion with the UEA Students’ Union and with two key concerns in mind. 

  • First, we must maintain academic standards and ensure the value of our degrees, as required by the Office for Students, the Department for Education, the Quality Assurance Agency and other regulatory bodies.  These concerns are echoed by those students who have contacted us concerned about the academic year 2019/20 being seen as “lower value” with degrees not viewed as comparable with other years.
  • Second, we are keen to support our students to be able to progress and succeed in their studies and we recognise the significant challenges that many will inevitably face as a result of the COVID-19 disruption.  We therefore want the burden of assessment to be as light as possible and we want to put in place safeguards to support students and relieve their stress.

To this end, we have put in place the following 10 measures:

1) We have moved all teaching and learning activity on-line. Staff are preparing teaching and support sessions for delivery online for the remaining teaching weeks of the term after Easter and, for those on PSRB courses, for the duration of the programme timetable for this academic year.

2) We have reviewed and redesigned all assessments due from 13th March 2020, liaising with PSRBs where required. We will ensure we only assess learning necessary to demonstrate the achievement of course-level learning outcomes. This will mean that some assessments may now cover more than one module, and some will be waived completely. 

3) For Year 0 and Year 1 students marks do not contribute to their degree classification. This means that we have been able to waive a considerable proportion of assessment, except in a small number of specific circumstances (including where PSRBs govern curriculum and assessment) in order to remove additional stress from students. 

4) For Year 2, 3 and 4 students (and Year 5 for medical students), we have reviewed all upcoming assessment items and have made modifications wherever possible to ensure that there is an opportunity to participate while reducing the number of assessments.

5) We have introduced blanket extensions of 10 working days for all written assignments without the need to make a request or to provide any evidence. If students feel that this still will not be enough time for them to complete their assessed work, we advise them not to commence the task at this time and we will give them another first attempt opportunity in the next assessment session in August.

6) In the case of exams or an assessment ‘event’, any student who is not able to sit an assessment will be automatically provided with another first attempt opportunity in the next assessment session without the need for request or provision of any evidence.

7) We have re-designed examinations that were scheduled for the summer examination period as online assessment exercises so they can be taken by all students wherever they will be in the world and at a time that suits them within a 23 to 24-hour window. Some of the scheduled examinations have now been replaced with a coursework assignment and others have been waived altogether.

8) For final year students not on PSRB courses, the requirements are:

a) Passing all ‘core’ modules;

b) Achieving a credit weighting average mark for the year of 40%; and

c) Passing modules worth at least 80 credits in total

For the purposes of degree classification, we will introduce a safety-net so that a student’s final year average cannot be lower than the average they have attained in the previous counting year of study. This safety net means that your degree classification can only be improved by undertaking any further assessments and there should be no detriment to your participation in assessment.

9) For penultimate year students not on PSRB courses, (Year 2 for Undergraduate Bachelors students and Year 3 for Integrated Masters students), the requirements are:

a) Passing all ‘core’ modules;

b) Achieving a credit weighting average mark for the year of 40%; and

c) Passing modules worth at least 80 credits in total

For the purposes of degree classification, we will introduce a safety-net so that students are not disadvantaged. When we calculate your degree classification at the end of next academic year (2020/21), if your year average in 2020/21 is higher than your year average for 2019/20, we will exclude this year’s year average and only use your final year average in the calculation.  This means that your current year-average mark will be ‘safety – netted’ and your final degree classification can only be improved by undertaking further assessments this year. There should be no detriment from your participation in assessment in the remainder of this academic year.

10) If the academic year 2019/20 is a counting year for degree classification purposes but is not your penultimate year, (for example, if you are a second year student on an Integrated Masters degree course), we will use the 2020/21 year average mark if it is higher, instead of the 2019/20 mark, in calculating your degree classification.

 

What does this mean for Foundation and Year 1 students?

Marks from Foundation Years and from Year One do not count towards degree classification. Consequently, our approach will be to only ask you to undertake assessment that is considered essential in terms of learning and skills, which we refer to as being “core”, to your course.

We will be amending our regulations for this year only to enable you to progress to your next year of study subject to you:

a) Passing all “core” (essential) modules: and

b) Passing modules worth at least 60 credits in total.

If you are studying a Foundation year and you have been given a mark you need to achieve to progress to a particular degree course, then the assessment opportunities will be given to allow you every opportunity to achieve this. The impact of the special measures put in place in response to COVID-19 will be taken into consideration and students performance considered sympathetically.

Your School will inform you of the detailed requirements in early April.

See below for more detail on

· our approach to coursework and examinations

· our approach to assessment, delayed assessment and re-assessment

 

What does this mean for Year Two, Three, Four, and Five students?

Marks from these years of study count towards degree classification. Consequently, you will be given the opportunity to demonstrate the achievement of your course’s learning outcomes. However, Schools are seeking to minimise the assessment burden on you and so where your learning, knowledge and skills have already been demonstrated you will not be asked to do this again. And so you should expect there may be changes in both the amount of assessment you are required to do and in the type of assessment. Your School will inform you of the detailed requirements in early April.

We will be amending our regulations for this year only to enable you to complete the year and progress to your next year of study or if a finalist to complete your course, subject to you:

a) Passing all “core” modules: and

b) Achieving a credit weighted average mark for the year of 40%: and

c) Passing modules worth at least 80 credits in total.

See below for more detail on

· our approach to coursework and examinations

· our approach to assessment, delayed assessment and re-assessment.

Our Degree classification safety net

Final year students
For the purposes of degree classification, we will introduce a safety net so that your final year average cannot be lower than the average you have attained in the previous counting year of study. This safety net means that your degree classification can only be improved by undertaking any further assessments.

For penultimate year students
For the purposes of degree classification, we will introduce a safety net so that you are not disadvantaged.  At the end of your course in 2020/21, we will use the higher of your two year averages for 2019/20 and 2020/21 as the counting year average for your second year in the degree classification calculation (or third year for Integrated Masters students).  This means that your current year-average mark will be ‘safety – netted’.

For other continuing students for whom 2019/20 is a counting year
If the academic year 2019/20 is a counting year for degree classification purposes but is not your penultimate year, (for example, if you are a second year student on an Integrated Masters degree course) we will substitute your 2020/21 year average mark, if it is higher than your 2019/20 average year mark, for your 2019/20 mark when calculating your degree classification.

What does this mean for taught postgraduate students?

Marks from all your modules count towards degree classification. Consequently, you will be given the opportunity to demonstrate the achievement of your course’s learning outcomes. However, Schools are seeking to minimise the assessment burden on you and so where your learning, knowledge and skills has already been demonstrated you will not be asked to do this again. And so there almost certainly will be changes in both the volume of assessment and the type of assessment. Your School will inform you of the detailed requirements in early April.

Many Masters courses involve the production of a dissertation. If you are unable to access the research facilities, or undertake the work placement, or undertake fieldwork planned as part of this project please contact your dissertation supervisor so alternatives can be put in place. In such circumstances you should discuss and agree an appropriate new submission deadline.

Your degree regulations will remain as they are.

See below for more detail on

· our approach to coursework and examinations

· our approach to assessment, delayed assessment and re-assessment

 

Assessment

Our approach to planned assessment items, both coursework and exams is to ask

a) whether it needs to happen: and if so

b) what modifications are needed.

Sometimes, the learning, skills and knowledge tested in assessment items overlaps. In such cases we are asking Schools to modify their assessments such that they only assess you once on each learning outcome. Consequently, you may experience changes and find that you are not required to do some assessments.

If an assessment item changes you will be provided with a new assessment brief.

We will be using Blackboard for coursework and examinations. Wherever possible the assessment methodology will remain the same but will be converted to Blackboard. Where an assessment method cannot be replicated ‘at distance’ (e.g. an event such as a group presentation) an alternative will be offered. Details on how to access and use Blackboard outside of the UK can be found on this Portal page.

In making changes to assessment staff will be working to common principles. Consequently, whilst the changes in assessment may differ, and your experience might differ, module to module, we can reassure you that no-one will be disadvantaged.

Examinations

We have re-designed examinations that were scheduled for the summer examination period and are still going ahead in the examination format but as online assessment exercises so they can be taken by all students wherever they will be in the world and at a time that suits them within a 23 to 24-hour window. Some of the scheduled examinations have been replaced with a coursework assignment and others have been waived altogether.

We will carry on using the current published exam timetable and so if your exam remains it will take place on the same day as originally scheduled.

The plan is for these on-line assessments during the exam period to be taken in an open format and within an extended time to enable all students enough time to complete it. As an example, we will set an assessment and tell you that we expect it to take you 2 hours. We will tell you when the questions will be released and we will tell you the deadline for you to save and submit your answers, and this will be either 23 or 24 hours later. We anticipate the time chosen to release the questions and for the exam to close will be 09:30 BST. When you chose to start and finish the assessment within this time period will be up to you.

The importance of this approach is that all students will have the opportunity to take longer on timed online assessments compared to sat exams. All such online assessments will indicate:

  • the time you are expected to take on the whole exam and where applicable each question
  • the expected word count for essay based questions.

Students without reasonable adjustments should aim to finish within the stated expected time. Students who need longer time or need to take breaks may take longer. However ALL students must stick within the given word limits, or risk penalties.

Students in different time zones will be able to take the assessment at a time which works for them within the 23 or 24 hour time period.

If you require a screen reader or other technology to help you access the assessments you will hopefully be familiar and have downloaded the alternative formats in your learning materials using Blackboard Ally. You will be able to do the same with coursework descriptions and exam papers.

If you have enquiries about assessment adjustments please contact Student Services at disability@uea.ac.uk.

Learning Enhancement Tutors in Student Services can work with you to improve your revision and exam technique. You can contact the Team at ask.let@uea.ac.uk or find resources online.

 

Coursework

All coursework will be submitted and marked on-line, and you will receive your mark and feedback via Blackboard.

If your preparations are disrupted by illness or other circumstances, you will be able to submit your coursework up to 10 working days after published deadline. This will not appear as a new deadline or extended deadline on eVision. You will not need to apply for an extension.

If you require more than 10 additional days beyond a coursework deadline to complete coursework please do not complete or submit the work as we will be unable to mark it. You will be offered a delayed assessment opportunity in August 2020. You will not be asked to provide any evidence to explain why you couldn’t do it.

 

Projects and Dissertations

If you are unable to access the research facilities, or undertake the work placement, or undertake fieldwork required and planned for as part of your project please contact your project or dissertation supervisor so alternatives can be put in place. If your project/dissertation has been disrupted by COVID-19 you should discuss and agree an appropriate new submission deadline with your project/dissertation supervisor.

 

Other assessment events (i.e. you need to ‘be’ somewhere)

If you are on a course regulated by a professional or statutory body (PSRB), such as the GMC, NMC, HCPC or GPC, you might be expecting to have OSCEs or other simulated practice activities or for there to be summative assessments happening when you should be in practice. The current situation with COVID-19 means that placements and practice opportunities are disrupted. We are working with the regulating bodies and your School will keep you informed of their requirements and how this

impacts your studies and your assessments. Our priority is to ensure you complete your studies and meet the professional requirements of your course in a way which satisfies your professional regulator.

Vivas, oral assessments and presentations will be facilitated where possible via use of Blackboard Collaborate. Where this is not practicable or possible, you may be asked to submit associated materials (e.g. summary notes or presentation materials) or asked to do something different.

For other situational or practical activities (including drama performances; media, production work; lab work; field work; simulation; demonstration) you may be asked to use alternative ‘virtual’ participation options. Where this is not appropriate an alternative will be put in place.

 

Artefacts/products

If your assessment involved you submitting an artefact such as a poster, portfolio or project then this should be converted (pdf / scanned/ collated) for submission and marked via Blackboard. Where the artefact does not convert to electronic submission but is accompanied by a supporting written or documentary submission then you may be asked to submit this accompanied by photographic evidence of production of the associated artefact. Your School will give you instructions on what to do.

 

Delayed assessment

If you require more than 10 additional days beyond a coursework deadline to complete coursework please do not complete or submit the work as we will be unable to mark it. You will be offered a delayed assessment opportunity in August 2020. You will not be asked to provide any evidence to explain why you couldn’t do it.

If you are unwell on the day of an online assessment, you will be offered a delayed assessment opportunity in August. Again, you will not be asked to provide any evidence of your illness or circumstances preventing you from taking the online assessment.

Delayed assessment will take place in August and be in the same form as that of the first attempt.

 

Re-assessment

Reassessment will only happen when it is essential to do so. Our regulations allow students to progress with some non-core modules having failing marks – see detail above.

Foundation Year and Year One students: If you have passing marks in a minimum of 60 credits and have passed all core modules you will be permitted to progress to your next year of study and you will not be given an opportunity of re-assessment in modules carrying fail marks. If you do not meet this threshold you will be required to undertake re-assessment.

Year two, three and four students and finalists: If you have achieved an overall passing mark for the year, have passing marks for all core modules and have passing marks for modules valued at a minimum of 80 credits, you will not be required to undertake re-assessment and you will be permitted to progress to the next year of study or complete the course. . However, you will be able to apply to take the reassessment rather than progress automatically, if you feel it would be in your interests to do so.

Reassessment will take place in August for those who had their first attempts prior to July 2020. If you had delayed first attempts in August, your reassessment is likely to take place in early October.

We are seeking to minimise the reassessment burden on students who are required to reassess. We will do this by reassessing failed items synoptically where this is feasible for the course. This is where individual assessments are combined into one synoptic assessment, which covers all learning outcomes being tested.

 

Questions

We appreciate that this is a difficult time for you and we hope that the above information is helpful. We are working as swiftly as we can to provide you with detail on your assessments and will communicate this as soon as we are able to do so. Please be aware that we are working in a dynamic and changing environment ourselves and our plans may need to change if we are advised to do so by the UK Government Office for Students. We will keep this page updated and alert you if changes become necessary. If you have any questions please send them through to lts.admin@uea.ac.uk.