DCU

FAQs on Alternative Assessments

MAY EXAMS

What’s happening with our on-campus examinations in May?

Due to the unprecedented challenges posed by the global COVID-19 health pandemic, on-campus examinations cannot take place in May.

However, Dublin City University has come up with a number of alternative assessments to replace on-campus examinations.

These are: 

  • ‘Set Tasks’ - for example: an essay, project or report. You should have received details on these ‘set tasks’ from your module co-ordinator. If you haven’t received this information, please contact them to let them know.
  • ‘Take-away exams’ - these exams will have to be submitted by a set deadline. You should have received the details regarding these from your module coordinator. Again, if you haven’t received any of these details, please contact module coordinators to let them know 
  • Oral Exams
  • ‘Synchronous online exams’ - these are scheduled, timed online exams that are taken at the same time by every student on the module. For example: multiple choice quiz, open book exams. The answers to this exam can be inputted directly online, or submitted when complete via an electronic file. Your module coordinator will have shared these details with you on how and when these will be run.

More than 70% of the alternative assessments arranged by DCU will be ‘set tasks’ or ‘take away exams’ as outlined above. 

Your module coordinators will send you the details regarding these alternative assessments. If you have not received these, please contact the relevant module coordinator(s) as soon as possible.

SCHEDULING

When will I get my schedule for alternative assessments?

You will have received a schedule for alternative assessments from your programme chairs or module coordinators. If you have not received this please contact your programme chair or module coordinator immediately.  

I have returned home from Ireland and live in a different time-zone. Will this be taken into account for alternative assessments?

Yes.  The assessment schedule takes into account, in as much as is possible, the fact that students may be in different time-zones.

How will I access my assessment?

Your module coordinators will have given you details on this. 

Most students will be able to access their assessments at loop.dcu.ie

If you have any problems, please contact your module co-ordinator.

What do I do if I have a disability and have particular needs for completing alternative assessments at home?

DCU's Disability & Learning Support Service (DLSS) has provided advice for all arrangements for alternative assessments. 

Students who are registered with the DLSS and normally receive extra time in exams will continue to do so for alternative assessments.

Whom do I contact if I have problems getting access to my assessment on the day - particularly if it’s a ‘synchronous’ exam?

You should contact the DCU Exam Support Centre. 

The DCU Exam Support Centre will be available before and during the exams. We will post contact details here, and will also email students to let them know when it’s available.  


ALTERNATIVE FORMATS


How will I know what form my alternative assessments will take?

You will be informed by your Programme Chair/Module Coordinator of both the format and timing.  


Can you tell me how a ‘set task’ alternative assessment operates?

A ‘set task’ is an assessment in which tasks are set and students are asked to produce a piece of work (e.g. essay, report) remotely over an extended period of time and to submit it online by a specific deadline.


How does a ‘take away’ exam operate? What is the time window given?

A ‘take away’ exam is an exam in which questions or tasks are set and students are asked to complete it remotely and submit their responses within a set period of time. This may be a slightly longer time period than an online examination (e.g. same day/next day) and may run alongside other assessments.  


How will the ‘synchronous exams’ operate?

A synchronous exam is a designated, timed period of student activity during which students complete a task, answer a series of questions and submit their work. It’s usually 2-3 hours. Work may be input directly online or submitted as an electronic file. The activity is scheduled and does not run in parallel with other work.


What do I need to do to prepare for my alternative assessment in terms of technology?

For all alternative assessments, you will need internet or email access. 

In the case of ‘set tasks’ and ‘take away’ exams, you need to be able to write up your assignment and submit it online via Loop. 

You will need internet access to receive your assignment, and submit it

If you are experiencing slow internet connection, you can submit your assignment via email.

For scheduled, timed online exams, you will need access to Loop to complete the exam. You will need continuous internet access for the duration of a timed online exam. The DCU Exam Support Centre will be available before and during the exams if you have issues of connectivity, etc.. 


I live in an area where broadband coverage is poor and I’m worried this will impact on my performance in alternative assessments. What can I do?

Because we know that this is a concern for many of you, we asked students to do a survey two weeks ago about WiFi and internet connectivity. More than 4,000 students replied. From this survey, we are aware that a number of our students have problems with access to broadband and we have taken that into account as best we can. 

Remember that 70% of the alternative assessments from DCU will be ‘set tasks’ or ‘take away exams’, meaning that you have time to complete and submit them. You will only need access to the internet to access and submit your assignments. 

To address any technical issues that may arise, we will, where necessary, provide flexible deadlines and, if you are having trouble uploading your assignment, your module coordinator/programme chair will provide the option to submit your work via email.  

Your module coordinator will also provide you with instructions regarding file size and formats of assignments to take into account slow internet connections and possible issues. 

We have also extended our examination timetable from 8.00am until 7.00pm each day. This means that you will be able to access the internet at a time when there may be less demand on internet usage from home-workers.

On the day of, and in the run up to, your timed (synchronous) alternative assessment, a ‘DCU Examination Support Centre’ will be in operation so that you can avail of ‘live’ guidance on your options before and during the examination. 

You will need continuous internet access for the timed alternative assessments, but if you have any problems, you can contact the DCU Examination Support Centre as stated above. 

We will add contact details here once the centre goes live.  


Will these alternative assessments be of the same standard as on-campus examinations/assessments that would take place in ‘normal circumstances’?

Yes.

We have gone to great lengths to ensure that the significance of your grades and the quality of your degree are not affected by changes we have had to make in light of COVID-19. 

We have done this in a number of ways. 

  • Firstly, in re-designing assessments, module coordinators have developed marking schemes for those new assessments to ensure that we maintain the same standards as in previous years. 
  • Secondly, a specially developed, systematic Quality Assurance (QA) process was undertaken to ensure that alternative assessments are consistent with the learning outcomes, challenge, and student effort envisaged for the originally planned exams. While this process was underway, our deliberations were informed by engagements with relevant regulatory and professional bodies and our external examiners. 

From the outset, we developed a set of principles to underpin the re-design of assessments and a glossary of terminology to ensure a consistency of interpretation across the university. 

The DCU Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Policy continues to apply to this suite of alternative assessments.  


Will my classmates get the same alternative assessments at the same time?

Yes.


My assessment is a handwritten exam - how do I scan or input this work? Any tips on best practice?

The recommended approach is to use Microsoft Office Lens .  You will be given details of how to use this when provided with the outline of your assessment. 


What do I do if I have problems uploading a submission by the appointed deadline? Who do I contact?

You will contact the ‘DCU Examination Support Centre’. This will be set up for the period of alternative assessments, and we will post the contact details here. 


Will I have to declare my work as my own?

Yes, and DCU’s Academic Integrity and Plagiarism Policy will apply to all types of assessment. 


POSTPONING, RESITS & GRADES


What does postponing of alternative assessments mean?

If you know in advance that you will not be in a position to submit or take your assessment when scheduled then you may request a postponement of assessment/examination.

Registry have prepared detailed FAQs for Postponement of Assessment/Consideration of Extenuating Circumstances. You can read this document here 


A fellow classmate said to me it would be better to defer my May exam until August to allow more time to prepare for my exam due to the circumstances. Is this the best option for me?

Probably not. Assessment in May should be easier for you to manage as you have continued your Semester 2 studies online, and are prepared to take the assessment in May. 

It would be hard for most of us to keep studying momentum through to August so you may end up having to re-learn things for the August assessment. 

But, if your preparations for May have been severely disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then postponing to August may be the best decision.

The link to Registry's FAQs on Postponement of Assessment/Consideraiton of Extenuating Circumstances is here


I don’t feel I’m in a position to do any alternative assessments in May. What can I do?

We understand and appreciate that some students may not feel ready to take their alternative assessment in May, although we strongly urge you to try and do it if you can.

However, in the current circumstances, students are allowed to postpone their Semester 2 alternative assessment in May to the August period without negative administrative or financial implications. 

For students who postpone their alternative assessment in May, the August exam will count as a first attempt.

There will be no fees for taking them for the first time in August.

If you decide to postpone, you need to complete a form on the Registry website and return it before 5pm on April 30th. The link to this is here. Also read Registry's FAQs on Postponement of Assessment/Consideration of Extenuating Circumstances in the previous answer. 

Whom do I contact about resits if I fail in May?

If you are required to take a resit, you will be automatically registered for it. Your Programme Chair/Module Coordinator will contact you about any resits.


So there are no on campus examinations in May and they have been replaced by alternative assessments. Will there be on-campus examinations in August then?

There will be no on-campus examinations in August this year.  

August resits will be delivered in a manner similar to the delivery of the Semester 2 assessments in May.  

The exact format of the August resit assessments is not yet fully decided but will be finalised in the coming weeks and you will hear about these from your Programme Chair and/or module coordinators.


What happens if I postpone my May assessment and then I fail in August?

There are no resits this year beyond those planned for August.  

So, if you don’t pass your assessment in August, it will generally mean that you can’t progress to the following year of your programme. 

If you’re a final year student, it will mean that you cannot graduate until the following year and on successful completion of your programme in May or August 2021.


Just say I decide to take my alternative assessments in May, but I don’t get the minimum 40% pass mark. What happens?

If you don’t get the minimum 40% pass mark or pass by compensation, you have failed and you will be required to take a resit in August 2020.  


Will I only get 40% if I pass the resit?

The resit will be graded using the full range of marks. Whatever grade you achieve will be recorded on your transcript.


I failed a Semester 1 module and have to re-sit in August. Will this exam still take place in August? Will I only receive any information about this assessment in August?

Resits for Semester 1 will still take place in August - but no on-campus examinations will take place in August.  

Alternative assessments for August resits are being designed to take the place of planned resits of Semester 1 Examinations.  

Your Programme Chair and/or Module Coordinator will be in contact with you about these arrangements in due course.


What is different about how a student’s average grade is calculated this year?

'Normal' rules would mean that if a student failed a module and had to take a resit, the mark that would be used in determining the overall grade would be the failed mark from the first exam.  

But, what we are now implementing is that when a student resits a module and passes, the mark that will be used in calculating the overall grade is 40%, not the original mark from the failed module.


Are the resit exams from Semester 1 given the lowest pass grade if you failed?

No, the resit will be graded using the full range of marks. Whatever grade you achieve will be recorded on your transcript.


How much will a resit cost and when do I have to register for the resit?

There will be no fees required for resits this year.

No resit fee will be charged for the August resit of Semester 1 or Semester 2 modules. 

Students will not need to register for August resits this year.

If you wish to postpone your alternative assessment from May to August, you will need to submit the appropriate Application for Postponement of Assessment/Examination Form (R33).Please click here: https://www.dcu.ie/registry/application_forms.shtml#Examinations


What’s different about how my average grade is calculated this year?

There is no change if you pass all your modules at the first attempt.  

If you have a resit in August 2020 and pass that resit, the only thing that changes is how the overall average grade for the year is calculated. Instead of using the original failing mark in calculating this average grade, a mark of 40% is used instead.


MINIMISING NEGATIVE IMPLICATIONS

We are living in exceptional circumstances - what exactly is Dublin City University doing to minimise negative implications for students?

We know these are unprecedented times - and we’re doing our best to address every issue that is presented to us.

These are the steps that we have taken so far: 

  • All alternative assessments for students have been adapted to be completed remotely.

  • Students are allowed to postpone the Semester 2 alternative assessment from May to August but must submit the relevant form by April 30th. For students who postpone in May due to the impact of COVID-19, the August exam will count as a first attempt

  • There will be no fees for resits, or for taking alternative assessments in August, having postponed them from May

  • Resits of Semester 1 exams will now be treated in the same way as resits of Semester 2 exams. They will be delivered as alternative assessments that can be done online, which means students no longer based in Ireland can complete them from anywhere in the world. 

  • If you fail a module in May, this failing mark will not be carried over to your overall grade. Instead, if you pass the resit, the minimum pass mark (usually 40%) will be used to calculate your overall grade. In ‘normal’ times, the mark from your first examination is used to calculate your overall grade. This will not happen on this occasion. 


What if I’m unwell on the day or I’m unable to complete the assessment on the day due to extenuating circumstances - whom do I contact?

You should notify your programme chair/module coordinator and lecturer.

The ‘DCU Examination Support Centre’ will be in operation throughout the exam period so that you can also avail of ‘live’ guidance on your options.  We will add contact details here once the centre goes live. 


How is Dublin City University supporting students through this time?

We are committed to providing you with welfare, academic and practical support throughout this time.

DCU Student Support and Development have a range of supports available via email, phone and online - and can be contacted here. Counselling is being offered online, and students struggling with finances may be able to get some financial assistance through the Student Assistance Fund. If a student has general enquiries and is not sure whom they need to speak to, a member of staff in the Student Advice Centre can advise them as necessary.

We have some really useful material about preparing for exams and taking care of yourselves before and during exams in the Discover Exam Success section of the Student Learning webpages. 

You can learn some new learning strategies, find ways of staying calm and get tips on how to give your best performance on the day of the exam. Students may also find the Discover Assignment Writing section interesting, as you complete your assignments.  

 Please also consider signing up for our ‘Virtual Exam Bootcamp’, which will cover motivation, exam strategies, exam stress and exam performance. It will be taking place during the week of April 20th. Registration will open shortly.

On the day of timed alternative assessments or deadlines, we will provide enhanced supports for students including a ‘live’ DCU Examination Support Centre. 

The 'Review and approval of results: Information for students' can be viewed here: https://www.dcu.ie/coronavirus/Review-and-approval-of-results-Information-for-students.shtml-0
The 'Guide for Students - Online Exams and Alternative Assessments' can be viewed here: https://www.dcu.ie/coronavirus/news/2020/Apr/Guide-for-Students-Online-Exams-and-Alternative-Assessments.shtml#