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Covid 19 Guidance on Alternative Assessments

Protocol for Exam-based Assessment During the Current Coronavirus Situation

March 2020

This document sets out the emergency arrangements for written examinations at the University of Huddersfield for the 2019/2020 academic year to take account of the sudden closure of the University Campus and the move to an online-only model of working. We are working in exceptional circumstances and ask that everyone takes this into consideration in any decision making around alternative assessment.

The protocols set out here apply only where there are written examinations or in-class tests scheduled to be taken in the period from 18 March 2020 to 1 June 2020. The period to which they apply may be extended if this becomes necessary.

It is underpinned by the following principles:

  1. No student will be disadvantaged by the emergency arrangements
  2. Arrangements will be fair and transparent
  3. Arrangements are underpinned by the University’s commitment to the quality and standards framework with which we regulate our awards.
  4. All students, where asked to undertake alternative assessment, should do so with honesty and integrity, and any work presented must be their own, in line with University regulations.
  5. Module Leaders, in consultation with their Course Leaders and Heads of Department, will be responsible for arrangements for alternative assessment. If a ML is unable to fulfil this because of the impact of Covid19, a deputy should be nominated. The Alternative Assessment form (Appendix 1) should be completed to enable the University to have oversight of changes made.
  6. HoDs should collate the list of alternative assessments and forward to their SAVP Chair (or nominee) and School Quality Manager (or nominee) for consideration. The SAVP Chair (or nominee) will sign off on approvals for Alternative Assessment on behalf of the School. Once approved, the School Quality Manager, or nominated person, will forward these to Registry. It is important that in making alternative assessment arrangements, we keep a careful track of decisions made about the nature of the alternative arrangements. Remember, for the CAB grids to be correctly populated, it is IMPORTANT that our School Quality manager and Registry are given information about any changes to assessment promptly.
  7. These processes need to happen quickly so that arrangements can be communicated with students.
  8. Where possible, alternative assessments should be sent to the External Examiner. While the timescale is too short to await EE approval, it is important that they are informed about the action we have taken.
  9. We may all be called upon to use our discretion in how assessment is managed during this period. Please remember to be even-handed and apply discretion equitably.


In making any alternative arrangements for examinations, all staff should be aware that we have significant numbers of students who have Additional Requirements for Assessment (ARA) as part of their Personal Learning Support Plan. They may require readers, writers, additional time, access to specialist software or equipment which is only located on campus. Alternative assessments must take account of this and students will be pointed towards disability services who will provide help.

A significant proportion of our students (around 50%) are from the most deprived sectors of society (Index of Multiple Deprivation quintiles 1 and 2) and many do not have easy access to a computer or reliable wifi, and may not have access to quiet study space.

Many homes will be crowded and noisy as the impact of Covid19 leads to progressively more families having to self-isolate.

Many students have caring responsibilities (60% are commuter students, and of these, a significant proportion choose to commute because they are caring for children or adult family members) and this will become a more tightly focussed priority for them over the coming weeks.

A significant number of our students have part time work in the health and social care sector, and it is likely that final year students will be drafted in as key workers.

A high volume of students will need to declare that they are “not fit to sit” on the basis of Covid19 infection or stress related to Covid19 circumstances – all of which will be difficult to evidence and evaluate.

We have to take account of our international students who have now returned home, and are operating in a different time zone, which makes synchronous assessment challenging.

We are also mindful that the impacts of Covid19 on our students also apply to our staff, and therefore any change in assessment mechanism needs to be straightforward and easy to implement.

While there will be some exceptions to take account of PSRB requirements, where appropriate we are suggesting the following protocols:


Foundation year (year 1) or Pre-foundation year (year 0)

  1. Where 50% or more of the module mark is already accounted for through previous assessed components, other components of assessment may be discounted and the overall module mark based on the mark(s) already achieved
  2. Where less than 50% of the module mark is accounted for, an alternative assessment will be put in place wherever possible
  3. Where alternative assessments cannot reasonably be set, progression may be determined on a pass/fail basis for each of the module(s) affected. The transcript will record the reason for this.


Intermediate year (year 2)

  1. Where 60% or more of the module mark is already accounted for through previous assessed components, other components of assessment may be discounted and the overall module mark based on the mark(s) already achieved
  2. Where less than 60% of the module mark is accounted for, an alternative assessment will be put in place wherever possible
  3. Where alternative assessments cannot reasonably be set, progression may be permitted with outstanding assessments trailed into the following year.


Honours year (year 3 or 4) and Final year of Integrated Masters Programmes

  1. An alternative assessment will be put in place for all missing components of assessment
  2. Where an alternative assessment is not readily available, the CAB will defer its decision until such time as an appropriate assessment can be set and a module mark provided.


Alternative assessments

1. Substitute the exam for piece of written work of appropriate length.

 a) Try to ensure that the learning outcomes which would be met by the examination are covered in any alternative assessment.

 b) Keep any assessment straightforward. While we encourage innovation in assessment, we have to be mindful that at this stage in the academic year, and in the unusually challenging circumstances facing all students, we are not in a position to fully support them in learning new assessment techniques. An audio-visual diary is a great idea as an assessment, but consider whether students can access the technologies from home to do this, and whether it is appropriate for our ARA students.


2. Run the exam as “open book” giving students 24 hours to complete and submit through Brightspace.

a) Where possible, set the open book exam date to run on the day which had been allocated for the exam originally. However, you need to take account of deadline dates for other assessments. You might also consider some rearrangements to space out the assessments for the students as there are no limits on rooms and timetable with online assessments. Avoid an open book exam on the same date that any other assessment is due.

b) While it would be good to run a synchronous online exam, we cannot offer that option this year as it would mean some of our international students who have had to return to their home country logging in during the night. We also have UK students in households with unreliable connectivity, and they would be disadvantaged, particularly as our communities are all now moving to dependence on networks which might well struggle to keep up with demand.

c) There is a risk of academic malpractice, but this is the same risk as for those students who produce essays. The submission to Turnitin will check for similarity. Students should be reminded of the need to follow the normal plagarism rules for the exam based assessments in there subject, for example referencing systems. They should also be informed that they may be contacted after the assessment submission to discuss their answers in the form of a short viva/interview.

d) It is IMPORTANT that exam scheduling takes account of other exams running in your area and MLs MUST liaise with their Course Leaders and Heads of Department to ensure there are no clashes.

e) Where there is a need for pictorial or diagrammatic responses to exam questions (for example formulae), staff are encouraged to consider alternative ways of asking those questions to minimise the need for hand-drawn responses. Students are being given extra time to enable them to use appropriate software for the inclusion of diagrams where possible, however, they might also be encouraged to scan or photograph their workings and copy this into their script.

f) While 24 hours is suggested for open book exams, this is at the discretion of the ML/HoD, and the exam period can be opened for longer should this be deemed appropriate, subject to it not clashing with other deadlines, or indeed operate to tighter time constraints where good reason for this is presented (for example PSRB requirements).

g) The expectation is that you will be setting either the actual exam or something very similar. As such it is expected that the students can complete this in the usual 2 or 3 hour timeframe. The additional time is to provide flexibility for circumstances as above.

h) If setting an open book exam with a limited time window, ensure that students are given as much notice of the date as possible, normally a minimum of three weeks’ notice.

3. We will have students who require extra time as set out in their ARA, and reasonable adjustments must take into consideration their needs. Please ensure you check their PLSPs and factor in any required adjustments. We consider that the 24 hour period allows for students requiring extra time in the usual exam and for students with other requirements disability services will be happy to help.


Referral work

Where a student has non-exam based referral work, they will be expected to do this in line with normal expectations.

Where a student has exam based referral work, then these protocols should be applied.


Compliance with PSRB Requirements

In the first instance we would ask that you communicate with your PSRB about the need to move away from formal attendance-based examinations. This will not come as a surprise to them.

We will endeavour to work with alternative assessment protocols as stipulated by your PSRB, however, if given the responsibility for the management of alternatives to examinations is devolved to the University we would ask that you follow our protocols as closely as you can, taking account of the needs of your subject.

If your PSRB requires students to “sit” the exam in the normal way, Course Leaders are requested to liaise with Registry to identify an appropriate time and date. This is likely to be much later in the academic year, or early in the next academic year, which will have an inevitable knock on effect for progression and graduation, though we will endeavour to keep the impact of delayed exams to a minimum.

Be mindful of the potential for 20% of students to be unwell and unfit to sit time-constrained exams, and the additional burden placed on staff, who we anticipate will also be similarly impacted by Covid19.

Also be mindful that as an institution we are concerned about staff wellbeing in managing a challenging assessment period.



All completed forms for the Alternative Assessment Arrangements must be forwarded to Registry by the School Quality Manager so that they can monitor changes and processes around assessment such as ECs, Appeals and Academic Integrity cases.

Forms should be submitted to Each school has a document folder (visible to the left hand side of the screen), please make use of this so we can house each school individually to make for easier review later down the line.

If there are any difficulties with the site (there shouldn’t be but just in case) then please email Katie Engel or Karen Brough.

Fit to sit rules will no longer apply when an exam has been replaced with an alternative assessment; this includes ‘open-book’ exams. Students unable to undertake the alternative assessment will need to apply for Extenuating Circumstances.

Evidence requirements for ECs will take account of the exceptional circumstances presented by the Covid19 pandemic and will be relaxed as appropriate. Registry has issued separate guidance on this.


Other assessment types which are covered by this protocol

We encourage innovation in assessment at the University of Huddersfield, and this inevitably means that there may be other types of assessment which require large group attendance on site, or which cannot be operated in an online environment.

Where this is the case, the attached form should be used to propose alternative assessment following the protocols set out above. Schools and courses can provide one form for a series of modules where the implemented solution is the same.

Note: this process DOES NOT need to be followed where assessment remains largely unchanged but has simply been moved into an online environment.


Use of Extensions and Extenuating Circumstances

Under the current conditions, module leaders are encouraged to make use of module extensions and individual extensions where appropriate. Extensions may need to be of a longer duration than usually awarded to take account of students who may be ill, caring for those who are ill, are key workers, or who have very limited access to IT off campus. Where extensions are granted students need to be made aware that this will delay assessment and grades may have to be submitted to a later Course Assessment Board. Where extensions are not appropriate, students should be guided towards the Extenuating Circumstances process.


Useful Resources

There are helpful guides on using a variety of tools in Brightspace to create alternative assessments within Brightspace help and also on iPark.

The wider HE community is also looking at best practice in moving assessment to online formats, for example:


Advance HE has a number of resources you might also find useful in the Knowledge Hub:


Emergency Alternative Assessment Arrangements April-June 2020: Form to Complete: Appendix 1