Otago Students Became Nerds in Lockdown

Glad to hear that lockdown was productive study time for some of us

Turns out that students didn’t even need the Covid-19 grade bump to pass their papers. The pass rate in Semester One this year, even before the grade bump, was just 0.1% lower than the Sem One in 2019 - from 84.4% to 84.3%. The grade bump increased all Semester One final grades by 5 points.

There was also “a marginal increase” in GPA, from 4.5 in 2019 to 4.7 in 2020. “GPAs of 4.5 and 4.7 both equate to grades in the B-/B range,” said Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Pat Cragg.

She said that despite the increase, there were also some “complex changes in the distribution of grades”. “In particular, while some students may actually have done better in the online Covid-19 environment than they would otherwise have done, others faced major challenges; we believe this to have been particularly so for students whose families were facing significant immediate financial stress as a result of Covid-19, and those who returned home to study in an environment that may not have been ideal.”

“I think almost every student would disagree that the first semester grade bump was unnecessary - when the decision was made we were in the throes of Level 4 lockdown and every student was feeling the effect of COVID uncertainty and disruption on their studies in some way,” said OUSA Academic Representative Emily Coyle. “We felt strongly that the grade bump was the best option to accommodate for this and the unprecedented nature of the semester.”

“I feel like the grade bump was needed. It brought my grades up to where they normally would have been, so it was a good reflection of how much lockdown had impacted my ability to study,” said one fifth year student. “Without the bump I would have had a lowered average which would have affected my overall averages.”

The student thought that “there definitely needs to be some consideration for full year papers. I know from doing those papers in the past how much you need to stay on top of the work at the beginning to get a good result at the end, so lockdown will have affected those students in the first half of the year, which will impact their ability to draw together all the material for the exam.”

“The fact that students did well despite these trials is a testament to their resilience,” said Emily.

OUSA confirmed to Critic that once this issue is in stands, the Uni will have announced that full-year papers which had internal assessments in Sem One will also have those internal assessments increased by five points. There will be no five point increase in Sem Two, however students who receive a 47, 48, or 49% will have their grade increased to 50%.

“Our understanding is that this step [to give students a grade bump] – which was taken with the full support of our students’ association - was important in reducing students’ stress, and it is quite possibly one of the reasons academic performance overall did not suffer,” said Professor Cragg. The University does not think that the grade bump will create “scepticism” about students’ grades. “We are confident that anyone who takes a serious interest in these matters will understand fully that the situation faced by our students.”

This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2020.
Posted 5:03pm Sunday 20th September 2020 by Erin Gourley.