The University of South Africa will allow “struggling final-year students” to write open-book tests in order to help them graduate.
According to a report in the Sunday Times, the new system was announced to Unisa staff in July, and has caused concern among some of the university’s academics.
Selected students will be allowed to write an “assessment” from home, and will be given 24 hours to complete it. They must then sign a declaration stating the work is their own.
The “alternative assessments” will be made available to undergraduate “concession students” who need to pass “one or two” more courses to obtain their degrees.
Previously, Unisa students had to write a supplementary exam if they failed a course, or retake it completely. The “open-book” system will now see students writing assignments or submitting a written portfolio in place of an exam.
Unisa staff who spoke to the Sunday Times said the system favoured “graduation over education”, and would allow students to pass courses that were above their learning ability.
Staff are also concerned about the effect the system will have on the university’s credibility, and the possibility of cheating.
Unisa’s executive director of academic planning Peter Havenga said the system will not hurt the quality of education at the institution.
“What we’ve realised is that sometimes students gets stuck in a module and they build up a block – there is just something missing,” said Havenga.
“The alternative assessment helped them over that hurdle.”