A student in an undergrad class seems to have forgotten to answer the last few questions on a written essay.

This student has achieved an average of A+ so far (over the term)

The last few questions are not worth much, but is the difference between receiving an A and an A+

This student has also submitted a draft of this essay earlier in the term to get feedback (all students are allowed to do this once).

Should I give 0 because this student did not answer it, or part marks because this student knows how to answer it (as evidenced by the draft) but simply forgot?

A student in an undergrad class seems to have forgotten to answer the last few questions on a written essay.

This student has achieved an average of A+ so far (over the term)

The last few questions are not worth much, but is the difference between receiving an A and an A+

This student has also submitted a draft of this essay earlier in the term to get feedback (all students are allowed to do this once).

Should I give 0 because this student did not answer it, or part marks because this student knows how to answer it (as evidenced by the draft) but simply forgot?

I’m a master electrical engineering student in a state university and I just took my very last final exam on Wednesday. I totally screwed up. I could not solve any of the problems (4 problems). It has never happened to me before. I thought I studied enough for it but I guess not. I’m looking at like 20 on the final which is 35% of the total grade. I had about 80% before final. What’s sad is that I did study for it and I feel crushed that I couldn’t do it at all.

I had a 3.5 GPA before this. Since there are only 10 classes in masters, if I fail 1 class would be fatal to the GPA. My main concern is I’m about to graduate and look for a job, but this is going to ruin my GPA. I sent an email to professor yesterday saying:

I know I did very poorly on the exam. I thought I understood the material and would be able to perform similar like the midterm but clearly I was wrong. I spent a lot of time doing homework and study but I really don’t have excuse for this kind of performance.

Would you please consider withdrawing me from the class if you are able? I really can not have a D or F. . . . I understand this is my own responsibility and thank you for the semester.

I sent it Friday 9 am. Of course, I haven’t heard back from the professor. My question is: should I just wait for the grade to show up on Wednesday next week and see what happens or go talk to the professor?

I’m a master electrical engineering student in a state university and I just took my very last final exam on Wednesday.. I totally screwed up…I could not solve any problem in the exam (4 problems.) It has never happened to me before. I thought I studied enough for it but I guess not… I’m looking at like 20 on the final which is 35% of the total grade..I had about 80% before final. What’s sad is that I did study for it and I feel crushed that I couldnt do it at all.

I have 3.5 GPA before this..Since there are only 10 classes in masters, if I fail 1 class would be fatal to the GPA. My main concern is..I’m about to graduate and looking for a job, this is gonna ruin my GPA. I sent an email to professor yesterday saying

“I know I did very poorly on the exam. I thought I understood the material and would be able to perform similar like the midterm but clearly I was wrong. I spent a lot of time doing homework and study but I really dont have excuse for this kind of performance.

Would you please consider withdrawing me from the class if you are able? I really can not have a D or F.. I understand this is my own responsibility and thank you for the semester. “

I sent it Friday 9am. Of course I dont hear back from the professor..now my question is should I just wait for the grade to show up on Wednesday next week and see what happens or go talk to the professor? Thanks guys.

I am the course leader for a course with more than 600 students.
This semester,
I decided to conduct our end-of-semester quiz
as a computer-based quiz using our school’s learning management system.
We needed to reserve multiple computer lab rooms
due to the fact that the maximum capacity of a lab room is about 80 students.

Unfortunately,
we had always used a paper-based quiz in the past,
and it was the first time that we had ever used computer-based quiz,
so things did not go as smoothly as we would have liked.

We had requested that the students
should show up to the quiz venue 10 minutes early.
This would give them time to turn on the computers
and to log in to the quiz using
a special browser (Respondus LockDown Browser)
rather than the regular Internet Explorer browser.
Unfortunately, our instructions to the invigilators and the students
were not clear enough,
so even though most of the students showed up
to the quiz venue 10 minutes early as requested.
The invigilators did not make clear to the students
how to log into the computers and into the quiz,
so many of the students started the quiz 5-10 minutes late.

I attempted to communicate with the invigilators
to give the students 5 additional minutes to complete the quiz.
Unfortunately, due to miscommunication,
some of the invigilators ended the quiz on time
(so the students in their session had 50-55 minutes);
whereas some of the invigilators gave the students extra time
(so the students in their session had close to 60 minutes).

After the quiz was over,
some of the students who received 50-55 minutes complained to me
that they were disadvantaged because
they had less time to complete the quiz than other students.
It may or may not have been the student’s fault
if he or she had less time for the quiz.

  • For some of these students,
    they had less time because
    they arrived late (which is their fault)
  • For other students,
    they arrived on time.
    However, because their computers booted up slowly,
    or the invigilators did not make it clear
    how to open the correct browser and how to start the quiz,
    they started their quiz late by ~5 minutes
    (this could have been avoided with better planning on our part).

Questions:

  1. How should I respond to these student’s complaints?
  2. Is there anything that I should do to “fix” the situation?

Currently, I feel that the quiz was mostly fair to the students.
I am able to see in the learning management system that
fewer than 0.1% of the questions were not answered,
which means that 99.9% of the questions were submitted properly.
So although some students who had more time
had the benefit of double-checking their answers,
for the most part even students who only had 50 minutes
had enough time to complete all of the questions.

I am the course leader for an undergraduate course.
We have two quizzes each semester:
one around the middle of the semester, and one at the end.

For the first quiz,
students were allowed to bring a one-page “cheat sheet”
which could be either handwritten or printed.

Our original intention for the “cheat sheet”
was to encourage students to process the course material
and to summarize it for their own learning.
Unfortunately, I noticed that some of the students
had instead merely printed the lecture slides in really small font.
Instead of actively working through the material,
trying to understand it, select what was important, and write it down,
these students took the easy way out
by copy-and-pasting everything onto their “cheat sheet”.

As I began planning for the second quiz,
I decided that students would gain more
from the process of preparing their “cheat sheets”
if they were forced to handwrite their “cheat sheet”.
There seems to be some research that backs this up,
for example, this article says:

In the study published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles sought to test how note-taking by hand or by computer affects learning.

“When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can,” Mueller tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”

Today, 10 days before the date of the quiz,
I made an announcement in class that for the second quiz,
only handwritten “cheat sheets” are allowed.
One of the students was extremely upset about this policy change.
He felt that:

  1. Making such a change 10 days before the quiz/exam
    is unfair and unprofessional
  2. He had already spent hours preparing his digital “cheat sheet”,
    so changing the policy penalizes students like him
    who prepared for their quizzes early.

The student was so annoyed that
he sent an e-mail to the department general office
to complain about this policy change.
I was quite surprised that the student feels so upset,
and I feel that the student is making a mountain out of a molehill.
However, this is my perspective as a course leader,
so I wanted to ask for an impartial and unbiased opinion.

Questions:

  1. Am I being unreasonable/unprofessional
    by changing the requirements for the quiz “cheat sheet” 10 days in advance?
  2. Is the student overreacting?
  3. Or are both of us in the wrong?

Response to comments

To be brutally honest, if an “open book” exam is made substantively easier by having reference to all the course/lecture material simply presented verbatim, then it’s not a very good open book exam…

On the other hand, if the challenge posed by your exam wasn’t really affected just because students brought in all the lecture materials, then what’s the issue?

You raise a very good point that I hadn’t considered earlier.
Personally, I don’t think that bringing in all the lecture materials
would help a student significantly,
because our quizzes do test understanding and analysis
rather than rote memorization.

The reason why I would still nevertheless
prefer to require a handwritten cheat sheet
is because I feel that a significant proportion of students are lazy,
and without being prodded (by having to handwrite a “cheat sheet”),
they would just copy the lecture slides wholesale and hope for the best.

If the exam was in the middle of the semester,
why didn’t you bring up the change earlier?

This is a fair question.

The reason why I didn’t think about this earlier
is because I was busy with research,
and I only work on what I need to do for the course in the next 1-2 weeks.
This incident has shown me that
there are teaching-related problems that I could avoid in the future
if I were to plan ahead work with a longer time horizon.
However, because I am an assistant professor who is not yet tenured,
to be brutally honest, teaching is not my highest priority.

Although it would be ideal
to announce the “cheat sheet” policy 6 weeks in advance,
I feel that announcing the policy 10 days in advance
gives the students enough time to prepare.
I do feel that if I only gave the students 1-2 days of notice,
that would be unfair because I am giving them very short notice.

Editor’s note: additional information provided in a comment:

There are about 600 students in the course. It just so happens that I am the “academic advisor” to 6 students, 4 of whom are taking the course. We have a WhatsApp group, where we can communicate casually about school-related stuff. (WhatsApp is an instant messaging app.) I’ve found that the fastest way to get feedback from students is not using e-mail but using WhatsApp. So I’m taking Solar Mike’s advice to ask a select few students how they feel about this handwritten-only policy, to get an idea of what the broader student population thinks.

I have recently come across this exam challenge:

You can each earn some extra credit on your term paper. You get to choose whether you want two points added to your grade, or six points. But there’s a catch: if more than 10 per cent of the class selects six points, then no one gets any points. All selections are anonymous, and the course grades are not curved.

I believe it’s both insightful and challenging: when I used variants of it, students would always instinctively know that it’s in their best interest for everyone to choose the lesser reward, but there were always more than 10% that ruined it for everyone.

Moreover, it can work for an exam in any field (although I guess it’s more relevant to some than to others), since it only requires basic reasoning skills.

Are there any other similar types of challenges? (and is there a name for them?)

They should ideally be, in order of importance:

  • field agnostic: each student should be able to reach the “right” answer through basic reasoning, without requiring any specific knowledge. They should also be able to do this individually, since allowing them to communicate for this would be too much of a hassle.
  • formed such that either the entire (or most) of the class gets the bonus, or no one (or most) does, so it doesn’t affect anyone’s ranking negatively.
  • difficult but not impossible: we don’t want to give out extra points too easily, but we want the students to have a fair chance since we’re posing the problem.
  • fun and insightful: the above question tells you something about how communities work and the issues that can arise from that. Plus, it’s just fun to think about.

For instance, is it like in England or France where the focus is more or less entirely on examination scores? If so, is there a nationalized admission examination? Or is it more like the American holistic review system where the complete profile of the student is taken into consideration?

My question is more specifically asked keeping Bonn and TUM in mind.