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May 6, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Concerns around Shortening of Exam and Marking Period

 

A shortened examination period and grade submission deadline this trimester has members of the university community concerned that there will be a negative impact on students and academic staff members.

In 2016, the VUW Academic Board decided to shorten the Trimester 1 2019 examination period and grade entry deadline, in order to extend Trimester 3.

VUW Provost Professor Wendy Larner told Salient the aim was to regularise year dates to make each trimester 12 weeks each.

 

Exam Period a Week Shorter than in 2018

VUWSA believes that the shortened examination period will put added pressure on students, as there will be less time than usual between exams.

 

The exam period for Trimester 1 this year runs for around two weeks, from June 14 to June 29. Last year, the period was around three weeks, running from June 15 to July 4.

VUWSA Student Representation Co-ordinator Joseph Habgood says the new exam timetable will reduce students’ downtime between exams, and also impact how they can unwind.

Larner indicated that VUW has tried to ensure that students’ exams are spread out evenly within the timetable so they will not be disadvantaged.

 

She acknowledged that the period will require more forethought than there previously might have been among students.

“It will require students to be thinking a little bit differently, so the idea that you can do your exam, and then study for the next one, [do another] exam then study for the next one.”

“We still have the study week prior to the examination period, so rather than taking that as a break, take it as a study period,” said Larner.

 

Concerns Three Days to Mark Not Enough

Another major concern for VUWSA is the shortened grade entry deadline this trimester.  

The deadline shortens the marking period, only giving staff members three full working days to mark exams that fall at the end of the period.

The last day of exams this trimester is June 29, and all grades must be submitted by July 3.

 

VUWSA is deeply concerned for the welfare of academic staff marking exams, and the impact on students who receive late grades.

VUWSA bought their concerns to the Faculty Academic Committee on March 26. Associate Deans similarly expressed their concern with their ability to meet grading deadlines.

Larner said additional resourcing would be put in place if necessary to make sure grade deadlines are met.

She did not specify what the additional resourcing would include at the time.

“Quite what the detail of what resourcing will look like will [vary] a little bit from course to course.”

 

“They are the kind of decisions that Heads of School make. They are in the best place to think about what additional resources might be required to ensure those dates are met,” said Larner.

 

Nicki Wilford, VUW Branch Organiser for the Tertiary Education Union, believes academic staff members may not be prepared for the spike in the marking workload.

“The period of time between the end of exams and when grades have to be marked is very constrained.“

“It means they have will have to be doing nothing but marking for several days to get it in on time,” said Wilford.

VUW Tutor Henry* thinks the grading deadline will have a negative impact on the stress levels of staff who are required to mark, particularly those who are students themselves.

“You finish your own exams, and then you have to mark like 60 exam scripts. I don’t know anyone personally who has that kind of stamina or attention span,” said Henry.

Henry also raised the issue of the grading deadline impacting the quality of marking.

“It’s not something you can cram. You are not going to get accurate marks as a student for the work you put in, with this shortened marking period.”

 

*Name changed

 

VUWSA’s Recommendations

A VUWSA Memorandum to the Academic Committee on March 21 stated that if “the Trimester 1 2019 grading deadline is not met, students studying in Trimester 2 will be severely adversely affected; most obviously, those enrolled in a paper requiring them to have passed a Trimester 1 paper as a prerequisite.”

 

Further, VUWSA have recommended that VUW extend the withdrawal date for papers in Trimester 2.

According to Habgood, this would ensure that students would not be affected financially if they needed to pull out of papers due to late grades.

When asked by Salient about extending the paper withdrawal date, Larner said she did not see it as necessary at this stage.

“I will be very surprised if we end up in that situation. If there were particular issues around a particular paper, we would be able to deal with those.”

Markers In The Dark

There have been further frustrations among academic staff members around the lack of communication about the shortened grade entry deadline.

Multiple tutors confirmed with Salient that the university has not formally told them anything about the grade entry deadline change.

Wilford highlighted the importance of academic institutions announcing changes when they occur.

“We would expect a general email to all academic staff who are marking, to make it very clear to them about the reduced grade deadline.”

Larner did not offer an explanation for academic staff members (such as tutors) not being aware of the new deadline.

She said that all academic staff should be aware of the changes, since the academic year dates were approved in 2018.

“That kind of information should cascade down through faculties and schools so that everybody does know.”

VUWSA is expected to continue its work on the issue, hoping to “get messaging out” to students soon.

 

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