Many of Imperial’s 2nd year Biologists have found their efforts to be in vain this new year as their department has confirmed the retraction of coursework marks. This comes after students used past assessments to gain what the Biology department deemed an unfair advantage.
Students are up in arms as the department try to blame the students for contravening course regulations, but the department have been heavily criticised for not producing new questions for graded coursework assessments each year.
The majority of students on the mandatory Applied Molecular Biology (AMB) module have found their coursework marks severely down-graded after three completed and submitted coursework assessments were removed from the syllabus with immediate effect.
Problems started when students did the obvious thing when it comes to exams and used last year’s questions and answers to help them revise for the three multiple-choice question tests. Combined they were originally worth 50% of the module’s coursework mark, but weighting has since dramatically been adjusted.
Students who were genuinely using past years’ assessments as a revision-aid were pleasantly surprised to find out that all three tests used recycled questions from previous years.
AMB assessments took place throughout the module ‘s duration which was convened for 6 weeks from the start of the academic year in October. Students have been flooding the discussion forums on Blackboard since they arrived back at College for the new term.
One student wrote: “Grades change significantly [sic] for some of us who didn’t cheat and this is totally unfair.”
The dramatic drop in percentage mark for many of the affected students was caused when only nine questions from all three assessments were deemed except from the retraction. The nine questions were the only fresh questions used for this year, and now disproportionately equate to a decreased 25% of the Applied Molecular Biology coursework. One biologist was astonished at his new percentage mark.
“I went from a 2:1 to a fail! 25% of the coursework can make or break the final module grade at the end of the year.”
Despite the department considering the use of past questions and answers as against course regulations, some people have suggested this logic is flawed. Students were encouraged to consult their peers in answering the two Problem Based Learning assessments in which they could freely revisit the online test within a time period of one week. ‘Peers’ would have included students repeating their second year, and hence the recycled assessment questions would have allowed these students, doing the exact same test twice, to be unfairly at a distinct advantage to their first-time counterparts.
Whether or not the students were right to use past assessments to complete an open assessment, it seems the Biology department has been naïve to think their students would not tracked down previous assessments from elder years, to revise from or otherwise.