Reopening: The faculty of Arts is sticking to the exam plans that have already been announced

To avoid any further uncertainty about exams during the corona crisis, and to ensure that the students now do the exams for which they have been preparing over the past couple of months, the faculty is sticking to the exam plans that have already been announced during phase two of the reopening process.

2020.05.29 | Lisbeth Hartmann

Only one additional exam will be reinstated as an on-site exam. The students and teachers involved in this exam will be informed directly. The plans will not be changed for anyone else.

You can read more about the reasons for this decision in the vice-dean’s letter to examiners and students:

Dear examiners and students at the Faculty of Arts,

The government has decided to accelerate the process of reopening Denmark, so some people might be thinking that we can now conduct our oral exams on site in the usual fashion. However, following discussions with our directors of studies, chairs of boards of studies and others, I have decided that this will only be done to a very limited extent. I imagine that lots of people had hoped to return to more normal operations, so I’d like to explain why we will not be making many fresh changes.

Don’t change horses in mid-stream

For one thing, we have now reached an advanced stage of planning the exams rounding off a semester which has been hugely affected by the corona crisis. Our teachers and students have already demonstrated an impressive level of flexibility and adaptability – far more than anyone could reasonably expect. There has already been a good degree of uncertainty about these exams.

So in connection with the minor adjustments that were made possible by phase two of the reopening process, and having consulted our directors of studies and chairs of boards of studies, I announced that the exam plans and forms of exam would not be changed again. We need to keep this promise in order to prevent any further confusion.

It’s too late to change most of our exams

In addition, and with a few exceptions, it is actually no longer possible to conduct this summer’s exams on site and require students and examiners to attend in person. There are several reasons for this.

One of the issues at stake is that we have to give due notice of any changes. When the initial changes in our exams were made, AU introduced the very reasonable policy that any changes should be announced at least three weeks in advance. This means that the only exams that could be reinstated as on-site exams are those taking place from mid-June onwards. In connection with the acceleration of the reopening process, it has been agreed that this three-week period of notice can be suspended. But only as an option for the students – not as a demand. Our students are bound to have different views about doing on-site exams during the corona crisis. So one student’s option may very well be another student’s demand. As a result, we will be retaining the need to give three weeks’ notice of any changes.

Another issue involved here concerns the forms of our exams. In connection with the task of adjusting to cope with corona, lots of people worked very hard to find alternative forms of examination to replace our normal oral exams. Students have been preparing to do their exams in entirely new ways. So all the courses which have changed their oral exams into asynchronous forms of exam (including written assignments) should not be changed again. On-site attendance in person would therefore only be possible for exams that have been changed into synchronous, online oral exams via Zoom.

The third issue concerns the language in which our courses have been taught. We have promised our international students that they will be allowed to complete their courses online. This applies to both full-degree and exchange students, who have taken a huge variety of courses taught in English. So the exams connected with all these courses cannot be conducted on site.

And finally, there are also geographical issues involved. Degree programmes conducted at two campuses cannot be changed again because there is a big difference between East and West Denmark in terms of the rate of infection. We don’t want to risk additional infection, so we can’t ask our academic staff to travel to and fro between Aarhus and Copenhagen. And nor can we treat students on the same degree programme differently based on random circumstances such as where their examiners happen to live. This is another reason why on-site exams should not be considered this semester.

This issue of geography also applies to our external co-examiners. They have agreed to be co-examiners this semester based on the assumption that exams would be conducted online. They may not be able to attend in person because they have been planning to work from home. And it may not be possible for the chairs of the co-examiners to find replacements if any of them drop out owing to last-minute changes. Nor would it be fair to ask external co-examiners to travel from one end of the country to the other in the present situation. This means that exams involving external co-examiners can’t be conducted on site, either.

Risk of quality problems and treating students differently

Even though the corona situation in Denmark is much better than we feared, the risk of infection remains. A number of our students and teachers have expressed their concern about the idea of conducting on-site exams in the present circumstances.

So following inquiries by the Student Council, AU has promised that students will be allowed to refuse to attend on-site exams and ask for an online exam instead if their exams are to be reinstated as on-site exams. If any exams are reinstated as oral exams, our examiners and co-examiners risk having to change rooms several times during the same exam. Which could give rise to quality problems, and may result in students being treated differently.

Some of our examiners may belong to an at-risk group, and they may therefore be justifiably concerned about attending exams in person. In such cases, conducting our exams on site might mean that we have to find new examiners to replace them. Changing examiners (or co-examiners) at short notice is never a good idea. But in the current situation, which has already been affected by a good deal of uncertainty, it would be extremely unfortunate.

All these risks underline the fact that we should be extremely cautious before reinstating our on-site exams.

Only one additional exam to be conducted on site

I hope I have managed to explain why it is so difficult to reinstate our on-site exams this summer. There is only one exam we will be changing – it’s an exam we actually wanted to change while planning phase two of the reopening process. This is the exam for a course called “Film and Media History 2” at the Department of Media and Journalism Studies.

Finally, I’d just like to pass on some good news: I’m happy to report that the first online exams have gone very well, and that so far there have been no technical difficulties. This is good news! After all, we have to face the fact that our exams are going to be conducted online for the rest of this semester.

Best wishes,

Niels Lehmann

Vice-dean for Education

Faculty of Arts, AU

Education