New computer science grading system heavily criticised

Photo Credit: UCD Media Services[br]THE School of Computer Science has received criticism from its students over the introduction of a new grading scheme, which could breach the terms of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012.A new marking system was introduced during semester one of this academic year, following a decision by the school last summer. The system has been described by students as a “quick fix”.Students have also noted that they were not officially told about the changed scheme and were only made aware through word of mouth. This would breach the terms of the Act, which stipulates that any changes to programme with enrolled learners must inform the learners within 14 days of the decision.The scheme was introduced to combat a high amount of A grades in certain modules, which was an issue noted by the school as early as March 2016.Dr. Pádraig Cunningham, Head of the School of Computer science explained: “We had a list in [a] semester of modules, that had an anomalous number of A pluses on them and there was an attendant anomalous number of As as well.” He noted that a number of modules had up to 43% or 67% A grades.However, the move has received criticism for not including students during the decision making process. The system has also been introduced across the school, affecting students from first year through to fourth year.UCD Students’ Union Education Officer Lexi Kilmartin commented that “we had asked what kind of student input and things they had on it, which didn’t seem like much to be honest and we had expressed concerns about it not being flagged to students before the start of the semester. And the way that was responded to was ‘it’s done now so.”A member of the science programme board also confirmed that they were not aware of any plans to change the marking scheme during the academic year 2015/2016.Students in third and fourth year expressed upset with the change, claiming it could impact their degrees. Speaking to the University Observer one student commented “I’m going for a 1.1 now and when I picked my modules, I didn’t know that two of the five modules I’m doing this semester are both with the new marking scheme… that could easily bring me down.”Another student noted that students in Computer Science have the opportunity to finish in third year with a level 8 degree. They explained “I had an option of taking a full-time job… I only barely decided to go back but had I known they were changing the grading scheme I would not be here.”Implementing the system for all students in the school does contrast with normal UCD policy on grading changes. Kilmartin noted “the bigger issue isn’t the marking scheme it’s the fact that generally speaking when these kind of things are implemented, they’re implemented from the incoming first years. So I thought it was very unfair that they’re implementing it to current students and students who had already… signed up to how their degree is structured.”However, Dr. Cunnigham explained “there was a suggestion that we should have sort of phased this in, but my view was that we couldn’t do that… If we’re being told that there’s a quality problem in our assessment, we have to fix it and we can’t wait three years to fix it.”There are no campus regulations on grading schemes, though module co-ordinators can choose what scheme they use.However, the issue of added stress was also noted by both students and Kilmartin. Under the academic regulations, the Programme Board for each school is “responsible for… the academic welfare of the students registered to the programme.”