Exams and assessment

Semester 1 (2020/21 academic year)

Information for students regarding the Semester 1 online assessments (2020/21 academic year).

At the beginning of Semester 1 2020/21, students were notified that all exams will be conducted online. The exams will take one of the following forms:

1a - An open book long window online exam (23 hours)

You will be advised of the expected amount of time and effort you should spend on the paper. This is likely to be similar to a normal examination length (2-3 hours) and much less than the 23-hour window available.

1b - An open book short window online exam (normal length + 30 minutes)

You will have the normal amount of time to take the paper as if it were an exam, plus a further 30 minutes. The additional time is included in the finish time on your timetable and has been provided in order for you to download and then submit your answers.

Learn quizzes are also a type of 1b exams and will appear as (1b) Quiz on your timetable. You will have a set length of time to complete and submit your answers, and the exam is set up on Learn so you won’t need to download a paper or upload your answers (hence the additional 30 minutes for download/upload is not required in this case).

The link to your exam timetable will be emailed to you which will also indicate the type of exam(s) scheduled for you. Further details about these will be provided in the same email and can also be found in the Student Handbook.

All our study spaces on campus will be open for both revision and taking your exams online if you wish to access them. Some of these spaces will be bookable in advance. Full details of how to do this will be available in January.

When will the online examinations take place?

The online exam period will run from Weeks 13 to 15, starting on Monday 18th January 2021 and ending on Wednesday 3rd February 2021. The examination timetable is scheduled for release on 10th December 2020. There will only be one examination session for each student per day.

Each online Exam will be released to students (via Learn) on the specific date at which it has been timetabled. Open book long window examinations (type 1a) will be released at 10am and open book short window exams (type 1b) will be released at 9.30am. This will ensure that any students who may need to sit the exams in different time zones have the best opportunity to complete their exam at an appropriate time.

Can I practice the process of uploading my answers in the online exam system?

We have made a practice module in Learn available to you that replicates how you will interact with your exams during an actual examination session. To access this, you will need to enrol and sign-in to the module. Once enrolled, you will be given instructions on what to do next.

The module is available now and will remain open until 4th February 2021 (the day after the exam period has finished). You can access the practice module as many times as you like, and we strongly recommend that you do so at least once in order that you familiarise yourself with the process of downloading and uploading documents. Any queries should be directed to examhelp@lboro.ac.uk

How will you ensure students won’t be disadvantaged by these online assessment arrangements?

Please see the detailed information about our four Safety Nets for undergraduate students and for postgraduate taught students.

These Safety Nets were used in the 2019/20 academic year (i.e. last year) and worked well and effectively supported student outcomes. Therefore, we will roll similar arrangements forward for the current 2020/21 academic year.

If at the point of the outcome of assessment you believe the online arrangements have disadvantaged you, you will have the opportunity to make an appeal through our normal processes which will be considered carefully and fairly.

Do I need to submit a Mitigating Circumstances claim due to coronavirus?

Mitigating Circumstances claims are there to help students with specific and serious individual circumstances. You should therefore not normally need to submit a Mitigating Circumstances form as a result of the general changes to teaching and assessment in relation to the current coronavirus situation.

We would encourage you to seek support from your School (School admin team, Lecturers, Personal Academic Tutors etc) and/or Student Services as soon as possible if you feel you have an issue which is affecting your studies. We are here to help you, and we want every student to have the best possible chance to succeed.

If you do have specific individual circumstances (e.g. exceptional, serious or acute medical, family, personal, or other problems or events beyond your control) which you feel have affected your studies then you should complete the Mitigating Circumstances form in the normal way. Similarly, if you feel that your work has been disproportionately affected by changes to teaching and assessment because of your own individual circumstances, then you should complete a Mitigating Circumstances form in accordance with Regulation XVII.

All claims will be viewed fairly and sympathetically. You need to explain the impact of the circumstances on your studies in as much detail as you can. You should provide supporting evidence if you are able to, but we recognise this might not be possible in some cases - please do submit the claim anyway. Please check out the further details in the Student Handbook for examples and support.

You may also want to contact LSU Advice for additional help in completing your Mitigating Circumstances claim. You can find further details on the LSU website.

How will cheating be prevented, for example students sharing ideas through chat groups?

The University expects all students to uphold the highest standards of academic integrity during the conduct of all assessment processes. Academic integrity is the commitment to, and demonstration of honest and responsible scholarship and it is crucially important in order to ensure that: i) all students can learn and benefit from the process of learning; ii) all students are treated equally and fairly; and iii) the standards and value of academic awards are maintained.

All students receive guidance and training on the University’s expectations in the early stages of their studies. However, the University is aware of the potential greater vulnerability of the online assessment process to academic misconduct (i.e. cheating). You should be reassured that the University takes academic misconduct very seriously and has designed the online assessment arrangements to make it difficult for students to cheat. The full definition of the activities we consider to constitute academic misconduct can be in the Student Handbook. This includes plagiarism (submitting work as your own of which you are not the author), assisting another candidate to gain an unfair advantage (such as sharing answers via WhatsApp or other messaging platforms) and impersonation (someone else taking the exam for you). The Library has some helpful online resources to help you understand plagiarism and how to avoid it.

The University also employs a variety of mechanisms which enables it to identify where students have cheated. These include:

  • Turnitin UK, which searches the web and extensive databases of reference material and content submitted by other students to identify duplicated work. We are aware that some essay mills offer 'plagiarism-free' guarantees. However, many essay mill writers themselves take short cuts by copying work, so text matching software does identify this. Some writers also recycle material for subsequent commissions.
  • Turnitin Authorship Investigate, which provides evidence about the origin and consistency of a student’s submitted work that can be used to confirm academic misconduct. This can be used to track writing styles, typing patterns and linguistic style, helping to determine whether there have been multiple authors of work submitted by the same student or if there are significant variations in writing style from different pieces of work.

The University will also compare student performance in their online assessments with their prior performance and reserves the right to question students as part of the Regulation XVIII Academic Misconduct process if it is felt necessary to do so to confirm the authorship of any of their submitted work.

The likelihood of detection of any cheating is therefore very high, and the potential consequences of cheating are extremely serious. Students found guilty of academic misconduct may fail an assessment altogether or even have their studies terminated (see the potential penalties listed in Regulation XVIII). Indeed, a number of students were charged with academic misconduct during the Semester 2 (2019/20) online exam period and appropriate action was taken. In addition, students should be aware that, as well as being morally and ethically wrong, and contrary to University Regulations, there are significant personal risks associated with the use of “essay mills” and other “contract cheating” services. These include blackmail and extortion, because once a student has cheated in this way, they will be permanently vulnerable, not only while in higher education but into their professional careers. Students who use online essay mill services also expose themselves to the risk of their personal details being sold on to identity fraudsters.

If you become aware of circumstances which appear to indicate that another student has committed an act of academic misconduct, you are encouraged to report such circumstances, at the earliest opportunity, to your lecturer or School Director of Studies or Associate Dean for Teaching. Providing this reporting is done in good faith, the University will view it positively and will seek to maintain your anonymity wherever possible and protect you.

If you are concerned in any way about your assessments, there are a lot of people who can offer you help and support. Contact your personal academic tutor or your module leader, Student Services or get in touch with LSU Advice in the Students’ Union.