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Someone Failed Here, And It Wasn’t The Student

, , , , , | Learning | July 7, 2020

In 2014, I was a mature student in my final year of a part-time Computer Science degree. The final year involved a software development project which ran over two semesters and all students were allocated an individual Project Supervisor, who helped us develop the project and gather requirements, etc. We also had a Project Coordinator, who we were timetabled with once per week, and who was supposed to guide us through managing the project and writing our dissertation.

During the penultimate week of the autumn semester, our Project Coordinator was going to great lengths to prepare us for our first milestone, a presentation showcasing our project and the work we had done to date. She repeatedly emphasised that we must not fail the presentation part of the module; otherwise, we’d fail the whole course.

I suspect this was an embellishment on her part, but still.

We were supposed to upload a copy of our presentation to the Online Learning Environment used by the University no later than the night before the presentation, and then we’d do the presentation during class time the following evening.

That week, I finished off my presentation, and on Sunday evening, I sat down and uploaded it to the Online Learning Environment — OLE. The way the OLE worked, when you uploaded something, you’d get a green icon on the screen with a message that said, “Your document, [Title], has been uploaded,” but for some reason, you wouldn’t get an email confirmation.

I uploaded my document and got the green icon as I usually did, so I closed my browser window and went off to do something else. On Monday night, I did my presentation, which the assessors all said was excellent. They even scored me quite highly in it — above 70% — which I was pleased about.

On Tuesday evening, I got an email from the Project Coordinator. She informed me that she had discovered I “hadn’t uploaded” my presentation, and therefore, she was going to fail me. She informed me that “she had told us several times” not to fail the presentation, and that because uploading the presentation was a mandatory requirement, she was therefore authorised to fail me.

I replied to her email and said that, a,  I had been to class on Monday night, b, I had done my presentation, and, c, I had been given a very good mark for it.

She was uninterested. She kept insisting that “she had to follow procedure” and that she now had to fail me.

I was furious. I told my wife, who was also furious. In tears, I phoned my project supervisor, who was horrified. He said he had never, in all his years supervising projects, heard of anything so petty and ridiculous. He emailed the Head Of School and copied me in. The HOS was as shocked as he was, and said that, in his opinion, if I had done the presentation and been given a mark, there should be no reason to fail me.

His advice? To submit an Extenuating Circumstance claim, which would be reviewed during the Christmas holidays.

I did so, and emailed my Project Coordinator to inform her that this is what I would be doing. Her response was frosty: “Do what you like. I have to follow procedure.”

I submitted my EC claim and went abroad with my wife to stay with her family over Christmas. While away, I got an email from the School of Computing to inform me that “The EC committee had reviewed my claim and determined that I was not at fault and should be awarded the mark for my presentation.”

Relieved, I came back off Christmas break and threw myself into my project again, with one slight difference: from now on, any time I submitted assessed work to the Online Learning Environment, I screenshotted the confirmation message and emailed it to both the Project Coordinator and my Project Supervisor.

I completed my project, graduated, and later went on to complete a PhD! The Project Coordinator never said anything else about her intention to fail me. I’m not sure why she took such a notion, and I doubt I’ll ever find out, nor will I ever find out why my presentation didn’t upload.