Unisa Students Will Use App To Write Exams

Unisa's Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Makhanya, spoke to The Talking Point and discussed how Unisa is going to carry out their examinations during lockdown. He also spoke on the use of an app and the procedures of submitting exam papers.

The current global pandemic has had higher education institutions close their doors temporarily. This has lead to many changes in teaching and learning and as exam season approaches, many questions are being raised. Unisa's Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Makhanya, spoke to The Talking Point to provide some answers. 

Unisa is an open distance learning institution so not many adjustments had to be made in terms of learning and teaching methods being used. Their academic calendar has also mostly stayed in tact, with the exception of deadline extensions. By the end of March, Makhanya said that Unisa received an estimate of 1,1 million assignments. However, there are Unisa campuses where students go to attend workshops and write exams. However, due to Covid-19 students are now not able to have venue-based examinations.

Unisa announced, "The May/June 2020 examination period will continue, but no venue-based examinations will be written during this time. The university will, instead, make use of alternative assessment formats for this examination period."

Fortunately, majority of students already got their learning materials before lockdown and operations have been mostly normal. The only challenge Unisa has now are those concerning students who used on-campus facilities. 

Unisa is aware that not all students have access to resources and to solve this problem, they have developed an app that will be used for exams and any preparations, which will be shared with students. This app will be available for cellphones and is where students will be able to link up with Unisa. 

Students will receive a unique number that they will use to gain access to exam question papers and to submit their answers. The way in which this will work is that students will be able to have paper provided where they will write their answers on. Then, they will need to capture this answer sheet and submit it on the app. 

In order to avoid cheating and the sharing of information, Makhanya has said, "You will be timed. If your paper is supposed to be running for two hours, it will happen exactly within that particular period. When it is supposed to end, it will automatically shut down and then we'll give the opportunity of sorting our the question of submission where the uploading then starts."

To make up for the fact that some students might be challenged with this new method, Unisa will be giving additional time for exams. Braille students will receive further time extensions. 

Students who cannot gain access to the app will be able to write exams in the October/November period. Unisa has also said that all students qualify to write during the May/June examination period and if students are having their exams moved to October, they will still be able to register for second semester. 

Unisa is working on providing students with data and have worked out figures. They are waiting for approval in order to continue the process of giving students data during May and June. 

Some exams will be open-book. NSRC secretary-general Amukelani Ngwenya said, “But as to whether it will be an open-book or closed-book [exam] will entirely be a decision of the academics".

Some students are worried in the case where they rely on others to complete and hand in assignments, especially in terms of people with disabilities. However, Unisa aims to gather information about these students and are still in discussion about providing further support. They are looking to make special arrangement in terms of special devices needed. 

Prof. Makhanya has said, "There is a lot we are going to be doing between now and July in ensuring that the students may have had different types of challenges insofar as doing their examinations and have to be accommodated."

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