How will the exams for the winter 2021 session take place? The Rectorate of UNIL has just adopted a directive on this topic. The explanations of Giorgio Zanetti, Vice-Rector in charge of the "Teaching and Student Affairs" dicastery.
The main points
- The aim is for all scheduled examinations to take place during the winter session 2021, from 15 January to 6 February. The vast majority of them will be online.
- The Faculties will decide, after discussion with the Rectorate, whether the exam will be online or whether it will be held in person. They are in charge of informing the students of this decision.
- A failure in the winter 2021 exams is counted as an attempt.
- Mobilisations, quarantines and isolation are just grounds for withdrawing one or more examinations. Arrangements are made to ensure that the course of study of those placed in quarantine is not extended.
Subject to decisions taken by the cantonal and federal authorities.
What is the guiding principle of the new directive with regard to the examinations for the winter session 2021?
Our aim is to maintain the planned examinations under the best possible conditions. The vast majority of these exams will take place online and a minority in person, on campus. However, the current period is very uncertain. We therefore appeal for understanding and flexibility on the part of students and the entire academic community, as we may be forced to make last-minute changes as the health situation evolves.
What are the differences between the upcoming exam session and the one in August 2020?
UNIL is not going to renew the measure taken last spring, colloquially known as "attempt zero". Thus, a failure during the winter session of 2021 will be counted. The conditions for success laid down in the regulations of the Faculties will apply.
Why this change?
The Rectorate is fully aware of the difficulties encountered by students during this semester. However, the conditions of study are less deteriorated than last spring. The campus is open, as are the libraries. The conditions for online teaching - which has been progressive - have improved. The student support services, whether financial, psychological, technical, pedagogical or administrative, are operational.
Are there any exceptions for people in quarantine, sick or mobilised?
Yes, these absences constitute just grounds for the withdrawal of one or more exams. Moreover, with regard to quarantine, these withdrawals must not result in the cost of "losing" a semester, or even a year, for the students affected. In some cases, the alternative solutions provided for in the regulations of the Faculties, such as the possibility of making up for lost exams, will make it possible to avoid this. If no such solutions exist, the Faculties concerned will apply ad hoc solutions. As for the people mobilised - who are fewer in number than in the spring - the Faculties are determined to seek the best solutions for each case.
After discussion with the Rectorate, the Faculties have decided on the form of the examinations, i.e. whether they are to be held online or in person. They then inform the students. When will this be done?
Some faculties have already communicated on this subject, and others are in the process of doing so.
Will there be special study spaces on campus, as was the case last spring?
Under the current conditions, we are not going to renew the online space reservation system set up by the IT Centre last semester. Indeed, the campus and the libraries are open, which changes the situation and makes it possible to respond to needs. For the time being, we note that this does not create crowds that are not in line with the current health regulations.
How will the exams take place?
A minority of them will be carried out in person. This mainly concerns students in the first year of the bachelor's programme. In the classrooms, the system we experienced last summer will be renewed and even reinforced. This involves wearing a mask, hand disinfection and a good distance between people. But there is an important health issue, which consists of regulating the flow of people before and after the examinations. You know this: after the test, the tension is released and you approach the other students to ask them what they have answered this or that question. This is precisely what we want to avoid: we cannot afford crowds of people who are very close to each other, as this is where the greatest health risk would lie. Moreover, this would give a negative image of UNIL: the population would not understand that we are not taking special precautions.
We will therefore need a little self-discipline, despite the emotion!
Yes, if the health situation allows us to organise in person exams on campus in January, the Rectorate is counting on the students to behave responsibly, even in these particular moments.
What about online exams, which are the majority?
We are going to ask students to pledge on their honour not to try to cheat. Indeed, we have decided not to rely on intrusive digital means of surveillance, known as proctoring. The authorised IT tools and the modalities of surveillance are detailed in the Directive.
How is the new academic year in February going to look like?
It seems to me very unlikely that the semester will start again in a "normal" way on 22 February. It could start as this one ends, and in the best case scenario, we could return to the comodal model, i.e. the mix of in person and online teaching, later in the year. We're all in a mix of sprint and marathon, and the race is filled with uncertainty.