Our approach to assessment and progression

As always, we are committed to ensuring that our approach to assessment and progression is fair and reliable and maintains the integrity of our degrees. We have carefully reviewed our policies and processes for spring/summer semester 2021, with the help of student feedback and the Students’ Union, to ensure our policies are fair to students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and where necessary, we have built in flexibility described in this guidance.

Our aim is to offer fairness:

  • for individual situations including guidance, support, extensions, and extenuating circumstances
  • at module and year group level through adjusting the way we teach and assess and other flexibility

We then check through our boards of examiners to ensure that we have indeed acted fairly and that performance in modules and degrees is not out of line with expectations. This is the same approach that we take each year.

We encourage students to proactively seek help if they require it and to discuss with their tutors their approach to learning and assessment in the current circumstances.

This guidance applies to all University of Stirling students studying our undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes. Advice for students studying research degrees is available through the Institute for Advanced Studies.

Our guidance

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Our approach to learning and teaching

Our teaching has been planned and designed this year to be appropriate for online delivery. Assessments have also been adapted. Our staff appreciate that students are struggling with other commitments and a range of difficult situations. Therefore, they are also adapting their teaching to reduce any unnecessary burden on students, while ensuring that their programmes are robust and engaging.

See more about how you'll be taught.

Examinations

All examinations will go ahead this semester and will be delivered remotely or via an alternative to examination.

Online examinations and alternatives to examinations

Online examinations will be the form of assessment used to replace our usual on-campus examinations, taken by most of our students. The form of the online examination will be determined by each discipline and you will sit the examination at home, or in a place of your choice, using a laptop or other device. The online examinations will take place during the examination diet and the normal examination rules will apply, for example, allowing resits and deferred examinations opportunities.

An alternative to examination is a different form of assessment, designed on a needs basis, for students with disabilities or specific learning differences, to replace the standard online examination which may be unsuitable for their needs. The details of such requirements will be set out in the Agreed Record of University Accessibility Adjustments (ARUAA) held by the student. Further details are set out in the section on ARUAAs.

Spring examination timetable

The spring examination timetable will be available on Tuesday 2 March 2021.

Instructions for students on how to approach the examinations

The Student Guide to Examinations covers some common issues and Accessibility and Inclusion will help to advise ARUAA students. IS have produced a guide to the technology available to help students, which is available on Canvas.

However, your module co-ordinator will offer guidance on the expectations for particular examinations and the subject area, e.g. referencing; word count; use of particular resources; marking criteria.

In addition to support from module coordinators or tutors, the Student Learning Services (SLS) Canvas site offers useful study skills advice and information. SLS also provide study skills guidance and support through quick query emails and bookable tutorials (virtual and by email). To book, students should contact sls@stir.ac.uk.

Duration of examinations

We will aim to offer most of our examinations over a 24-hour period, depending on the discipline requirements. Where this is not feasible or appropriate, at least twice the normal duration of the examination will be offered.

We recognise that many students are struggling to find a quiet place to study, balance caring commitments, may be working in different time zones and may be experiencing other challenges. Many of our students also hold an ARUAA, which recommends a small increase in the examination time allowance.

For most examinations, offering 24-hour or at least double the normal duration, offers an equitable approach for all students, and removes the barrier of time pressure. It includes, within the overall time limit, a more generous “reading and checking time” than an ARUAA would otherwise offer. In cases where double time or 24-hours does not mitigate against the effects of a disability, the Accessibility and Inclusion Service can advise on other adjustments (see further guidance for students who hold ARUAAs).

It is important to emphasise that we would not expect students to take 24 hours to complete the examination. No one expects students to work for 24-hour periods and guidance and measures, such as limited word counts, will be used by subject areas to support this. The 24-hour period is simply the “window” within which the examination should be completed.

What students are allowed to access when completing online examinations or alternatives to examinations

These assessments will be “open book”, which means you can access appropriate academic sources to help you complete them, as necessary.

Can students work with other students, submit other people’s work, or get help from third parties?

No. As with all assessments, the work you submit must be your own work. Working in groups, helping, or receiving help from other students or third parties is not permitted during the examination, unless otherwise specifically advised by your module coordinator.

Where staff have reasonable grounds for believing that a student has breached our academic integrity policy, steps will be taken under the academic misconduct procedure.

Do students need to reference sources in the examination or alternative to examination?

Your module co-ordinator will give you clear instructions about referencing expectations for the particular examination. Work will be submitted via Turnitin and staff will also check to ensure that work complies with these instructions. As with examinations on campus, Turnitin will not be available to check your similarity score during the examination. In any event, the turnaround time for this process is often not quick enough to be helpful in relatively restricted timescale of an examination.

Where staff have reasonable grounds for believing that a student has breached our academic integrity policy, steps will be taken under the academic misconduct procedure.

Extension requests for online examinations and alternatives to examination

No. As the online examinations will be replacing on-campus examinations, no extensions will be offered for these assessments. This also applies to alternatives for examinations, for students holding ARUAAs. Coursework extension arrangements remain the same for other assessments. If you expect to be unable to submit your online examination on time, then consider deferring the assessment. It is very important to submit your work in good time, to avoid missing the upload deadline.

Late submission of an online examination or alternative to examination late

It is essential that you allow enough time to upload your assessment before the deadline. As the assessments will replace on-campus examinations, no late submission will be accepted and you will not receive credit for work done, but not submitted.

Please note that submitting a “corrupted file” will be regarded as a non-submission so take care to avoid this.

Deferring an online examination

 The deferred examination guidance is available on the website. The criteria have been adjusted include issues associated with COVID-19.

Deferring an alternative to an online examination

Students can apply for a deferred alternative to an examination by applying through their faculty. They should not apply via the portal, which is for standard examination only.

Illness during an online examination

If you become ill during an examination preventing you from completing the assessment and you do not submit the examination, you will be given an opportunity to defer. However, you are required to notify the module coordinator immediately that you have left the examination due to ill health.  If you wish your case to be considered under the Extenuating Circumstances policy then you should submit an Extenuating Circumstances application.

Extenuating Circumstances in relation to exam performance

Where a single circumstance has had a detrimental impact on your performance, which is out with your control, you can apply to have your case considered by the Extenuating Circumstances Board. This should be considered once deferred examinations and all other options have been considered. Detail of the Extenuating Circumstances policy is on the website, with details of the outcomes you can seek.

Support for students with an Agreed Record of University Accessibility Adjustments (ARUAA)

Information for students how have an ARUAA and normally receive extra time in examinations

The timescale for submission of online examinations has been adjusted to give all students a generous amount of extra time to complete, usually 24 hours, removing the barrier of time constraints. Therefore, no further extensions will be offered to most ARUAA students who normally receive extra time for on-campus examinations. In most online examinations, this offers an equitable approach for all students and removes the barrier of time pressure. It includes, within the overall time limit, a more generous “reading and checking time” than the ARUAA would otherwise offer, in addition to time for all students to deal with other challenges they face in sitting examinations remotely, in the current circumstances. This approach has been widely adopted across the sector and has been well received by the majority of ARUAA students. If this does not fully mitigate against the effects of certain disabilities, we continue to be able to offer other adjustments. See alternatives to examinations below.  

Information for student with an ARUAA which allows them to use a computer/ assistive technology in examinations

As all examinations will be online, all students will submit via a laptop or other device in the same way as you would if you were submitting coursework.  If you normally use Texthelp Read&Write (or other assistive technology), you can still use this for your assessments. You should have your own assistive technology on your laptop, funded by DSA, or loaned from the University. If you do not have access to the assistive technology you would normally use in exams, please contact Accessibility & Inclusion.

Information for students with an ARUAA that provides for an alternative to examination

An alternative to examination will still be designed for you on a needs basis, as we continue to follow a needs led approach to reasonable adjustments . You will be given a generous allowance to complete this work of at least twice as long as it is estimated the work should take, up to a maximum 7 days. Student should arrange an appointment with the Accessibility and Inclusion Service to have their needs assessed for this adjustment. Alternatives will only be recommended where extra time does not sufficiently mitigate against disadvantage due to specific impairments.

Coursework

Submission of coursework due to the impact of COVID-19

We understand this is a difficult situation for everyone and we are keen to support you as much as we can. You can request an extension to coursework deadlines, through Canvas, if this would help. Do consider however the scheduling of all your work, to ensure an extension will not simply exacerbate the situation by bunching deadlines. We will not insist on the usual supporting evidence for extension requests in the current circumstances.

What to do if a standard extension for your coursework is not enough for your own situation

You can apply immediately for your case considered by the Extenuating Circumstances Board. Details of the Extenuating Circumstances policy are on the website.

What happens if a student submits coursework late

If you submit coursework within seven days of the submission date, your coursework will be accepted and marked but you may incur late submission penalties. However, it is always better to submit if you can. If you have good reason for late submission, then consider putting your case to the Extenuating Circumstances sub-board. Details of the Extenuating Circumstances policy are on the website.

Dissertations and projects

Arrangements for undergraduate dissertations and projects

Local arrangements have already been made with students who are submitting their dissertations or projects, to adjust requirements where required, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Should you need an extension for your submission, applications can be made via Canvas. If the standard extension is insufficient for your needs, then you can apply immediately for your case considered by the Extenuating Circumstances Board as a last resort. Details of the Extenuating Circumstances policy is on the website.

Arrangements for postgraduate dissertations and projects

Some local arrangements have already been made for adjustments to projects and dissertations which have been impacted by COVID-19. As the situation develops, we will consider what other measures may be necessary to support you. You should keep in close contact with your supervisor to discuss any issues you foresee.

Should you need an extension for your submission, applications can be made via Canvas. If the standard extension is insufficient for your needs, then you can apply immediately for your case considered by the Extenuating Circumstances Board as a last resort. Details of the Extenuating Circumstances policy is on the website.

Feedback

Receiving feedback on coursework

Staff will endeavour to return feedback on coursework within 15 working days. However, if due to current circumstances that is impossible, you will be notified of the revised date.

Feedback for online examinations or an alternative to examination

Feedback will not normally be provided for on-line examinations or alternatives to examination, though some staff do provide class feedback.

Library and IT resources

Arrangements for students unable to access the library for books

Your module co-ordinators can help you identify relevant resources and will consider the resources available to you, in marking your work.

The library’s electronic resources are still available through the library catalogue or linked directly from course reading lists in Canvas. An increased range of resources are available online, either as etextbooks or digitised content. We now hold 350,000 ebooks and 160,000 ejournal titles, with 30,000 ebooks added in the last year and more on the way. The library have digitised 4,500 chapters and spent over £100,000 on etextbooks this semester, to support students working remotely.

Access to print resources is also still possible via the library’s ‘Click and Collect’ service operating throughout the library opening hours.  

For material not currently held by the library, students have access to the Article Request and Document Delivery services. Students can also suggest books for purchase via the ‘Suggest a Book’ service.

Information for students who do not have access to a laptop or other device/internet connection

We would ask you to take steps, where practical and safe and within government guidance, to access this equipment to enable you to complete your assessments.

Laptops are available for short term loan from the library. If you require access to a device for a longer period, you should make contact with the Information Centre for advice on how to borrow a device.

Microsoft Office 365 is available to all students through the University Portal.  This gives you access to all the Microsoft software you need for study, including Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, Word and more. You can also download multiple copies of the Office software for your own devices.  The ‘Office’ app (available via your App store) allows you to access and edit your documents on your mobile phone or tablet. Read our advice on accessing Office 365.

You can access Resources Lists and submit assignments via the Canvas for Students app, which is available from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. However, if it is not possible for you to source a device or have internet access during the exam period, then it is possible for students to submit by uploading photographs of handwritten work via Canvas. This will be particularly helpful for science and maths-based subjects.

Where students are due to submit essay style assignments, this option is available only to students who have no access to devices or the internet but do have a smart phone and signal. Students in this position, should seek approval from their Faculty in advance.

Remote examinations via Canvas, such as multiple-choice examinations, can be taken on a smart phone via the mobile Canvas App.

A guide to these various options is available on Canvas.

If students are unable to access any equipment, then seek advice from the Information Centre. If you need further advice, then speak to your programme director or personal tutor and we can support you to delay your studies or assessments until you can gain access to the materials you need through deferred examinations, extenuating circumstances or leave of absence. Your programme director or personal tutor can support you to the best solution for you.

Examination resits

Support for students who fail their modules first time around or need to defer an examination

We always support students to be successful in their modules and to progress to their next year of study, wherever possible. Particularly in the current circumstances, we will work flexibly with students to support them to gaining credit in their modules through the variety of measures described in this note.

Resit and deferred examination dates

The resit diet for undergraduates and postgraduates can be found on the exam timetables webpage. We allow students to undertake resit examinations at no cost, unlike most other Scottish Universities. Grades in resit modules are capped at 40(UG)/50(PGT).

Those who defer their examination from the first diet will also take their deferred examinations during this diet. Grades are not capped in deferred examinations.

If a student fails coursework, do they need to undertake a whole new piece of work to pass second time around?

Not usually. When you fail a module due to failing coursework, generally you will now be allowed to resubmit the same piece of coursework you previously failed, in order to pass a module. You will be able to engage with the feedback you received on the coursework, to help you succeed on resubmission. Your grade will be capped for the module at the pass mark 40(UG)/50 PGT.

What happens if a students narrowly fails a module?

Undergraduate study

Currently, if you narrowly fail a module, you may be eligible for a compensated pass in certain circumstances. These principles will still apply in the current situation. Compensation decisions are made after the resit diets are complete in July.

Postgraduate Taught study

Currently, if you narrowly fail a module, you are eligible for a compensated pass in certain circumstances.  These principles will still apply in the current situation. Compensation decisions are made after the resit diets are complete in July and August.

Leave of absence

If you are unable to engage with your studies sufficiently this semester, and simply need to pause your studies, leave of absence is available and details can be found on the leave of absence webpage.

Speak to your personal tutor or programme director for advice and guidance so we can look at what support you need to continue your studies or support you in pausing your studies, if that is right for you.

Degree classifications and Boards of Examiners

How the University ensures students are being treated fairly and equitably

The University operates rigorous quality processes to ensure assessments and marking is fair and reliable. We also continue to monitor performance through module and award boards to ensure cohorts perform broadly in line with previous cohorts.

How an undergraduate degree classification is determined

It is very important that the University, and you, do nothing which will undermine the value of your degree, which has taken such resilience and hard work to achieve. The UG degree classifications will continue to be calculated on the basis of our Examination and degree classification policy. In general terms, your degree classification is determined by your module marks during your honours years. The lowest mark will usually be discounted, unless you have less than 120 credit with attributed grades e.g. excluding study abroad credits; pass/fail modules etc. As well as achieving a grade point average within a classification, you should also have at least 50% of your marks within this classification.

Our award boards, including our academic staff, external examiners and chief examiners use their professional academic judgment to ensure our processes are fair and reliable.

What happens if a student narrowly misses a degree classification boundary

This year, the awards boards will use their academic judgment to consider student profiles who narrowly miss a higher classification in accordance with our Examination and degree classification policy. They may raise a student to the higher classification where there is good evidence that it is appropriate to do so. This process is anonymous and closely monitored to ensure fairness. All a bit confusing? Yes, we intend to simplify this in future years to make it more transparent, but feel it is important to retain this discretion this year.

What happens if a student has a GPA in a higher classification but has less than 50% of their module grades in that classification

If your degree grade average is in the higher classification but less than 50% of your module grades are in that upper classification then, you will normally receive the lower classification. However, the award board does have discretion to consider whether a student’s overall grade profile supports a degree in the upper classification.  Such decisions are taken on anonymised data and are closely monitored to ensure fairness.

How a postgraduate degree classification is determined

It is very important that the University, and you, do nothing which will undermine the value of your degree, which has taken such resilience and hard work to achieve. The postgraduate taught degree awards will continue to be calculated on the basis of our Academic regulations.

Our award boards, including our academic staff, external examiners and chief examiners use their professional academic judgment to ensure our processes are fair and reliable.

Support for students

There is a range of support available to all students, including: