Athabasca University lost my Exam, what can I do?
June 14, 2011 9:03 PM   Subscribe

My University Lost My Exam and is Now Stating that Their Policy Says that I Have to Do a Rewrite. Can I fight this?

Somehow my exam got lost on its way from the school-recommended invigilator to the school. The invigilator stated that she throws out receipts after a month and the online university is hiding behind their policy: Athabasca Lost Exam Policy

I have no time to do another exam and do not think this policy is just. I am curious if anyone else had this type of problem before and what they did about it. Also, I'm going to send in an appeal; however, I'm not sure what I should request in the change in the policy. I do not think that I should be punished for their mistake, but I would like to suggest a reasonable alternative to their policy e.g., photocopied exams.

Furthermore, is there anything I can do in the future to prevent this type of situation?
posted by Knigel to Education (17 answers total)
All my experience is with non-online schools, but that sounds pretty normal to me. I never had an exam or paper get lost as a student, but when I taught it happened a few times. What happened depended on the situation -- sometimes the student was given the choice of retaking the exam or just accepting their grade before the exam, and sometimes the student was made to retake the exam. The second option came into play when the exam was integral to the course learning, or if there was a hint of suspicion that the loss was not really accidental (this sometimes happens in big exam halls where people pretend to turn it in and then claim it was lost).

So, anecdotally at least, I think that retaking it is pretty unexceptional, though definitely no fun. If the exam is worth only a small percentage of your grade and there has been lots of other assignments to demonstrate your engagement and learning, you might have a case to argue for the exam to be dropped from the grading, but if the exam is a huge component of the grade that won't work.
posted by Forktine at 9:16 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most students have no idea how much power they actually have. Everything is negotiable even if they have a rule about it.

Listen to Hal_C_on.
posted by Murray M at 9:16 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It boggles me that this happens enough that they have a policy. It's 2011. Can't the invigilator photocopy the thing before they send it? Getting rid of receipts after a month - WTF?

If you've been a student for a while, and have fairly consistent marks, ask that they award you a grade commensurate with your grades to date. As for policy changes:

- invigilators must keep copies of exams until directed otherwise by the school
- ou must be given a copy of receipts
- invigilator should e-mail school, CCd to you, to say that exam has been sent
- documents should be sent by trackable mail.

Anything less than this is mindblowing negligence.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:18 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Otherwise...go to the school papers.

Athabasca University specializes in distance education. I doubt they have a school paper, or even a student community.
posted by Nomyte at 9:19 PM on June 14, 2011

Lost Exam Refund    When a written exam is deemed lost by the University the student will be issued a refund to compensate for the inconvenience incurred. The amount of the refund shall not exceed the Lost Exam Refund.

posted by staggernation at 9:26 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Are you a member of the student union? Their advocacy service is likely to know just how much it's advisable / possible to fight this.
posted by Paragon at 9:32 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Am I missing something? There's a written policy on this, right, and this is the part we're looking at, yes?

When it has been determined that only a portion of the exam has been lost, then only that portion of the exam will be considered in this discussion. The choice of resitting another version or the same version of the exam initially written by the student will be made by the Course Coordinator and communicated to the student and the Coordinator of Academic Records and Examination Services.

So their policy is that you resit the exam. I'm sure you can appeal, but you'd need to be very fair and specific in your exam, basically stating that a re-sit X days after the exam was given would put you at a disadvantage through no fault of your own, and that you'd like your course grade prior to the lost exam portion to stand.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:34 PM on June 14, 2011

I've had an exam lost before for an IRL exam sitting. The prof was extremely embarrassed, and after a little leaning and much expression of regret and inconvenience at having to go back to campus after the semester ended, he agreed to let me take the exam online without any sort of proctor.

You've probably got a decent amount of leverage here. You might be able to suggest some kind of compromise.
posted by The Potate at 9:39 PM on June 14, 2011

Generally speaking, universities live and die by written policy, and you're basically deemed to have agreed to the policy by dint of your enrolment/registration. You might be able to work with the three-options part of Policy 072, because in theory you have input into whether you are required to sit the same or another exam, take an oral exam, or complete a separate assignment, but ultimately the Course Coordinator's who makes that determination.

I think you're hosed, but you might be able to appeal the application of the University policy. I can't quite see what grounds you'd have - policy 137 states that the University reserves the right to require you to re-sit an exam - but there's no reason not to try.
posted by gingerest at 10:39 PM on June 14, 2011

obiwanwasabi writes "It boggles me that this happens enough that they have a policy. It's 2011."

Not every policy is a reaction to a particular event. Universities routinely have policies for what ifs. However Athabasca claims 7300 FTEs and I wouldn't be surprised if they administer 100,000 exams annually. They are going to have logistical problems with a few and their policy overall seems fair.

You probably have zero chance of not sitting for some kind of exam because it is open learning and therefor invigilated exams are very important as a check on cheating. This is why they have such a hard line policy and while it never hurts to ask for special treatment I wouldn't expect them to deviate from their policy.
posted by Mitheral at 11:16 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ugh. I'm a distance student too and once my exam got lost. Luckily for me, a bunch of exams were lost, so it was clearly the university's fault, and my invigilator had scanned it and still had the file. So, she just re-sent it to them. I don't know what would have happened to me otherwise.

I think given that it's just you, it's unlikely that they'll be so reasonable. See if you can get a grade based on the coursework they do have from you, but beyond that it seems like their policy is pretty clear.
posted by troublesome at 11:22 PM on June 14, 2011

A - I have nightmares about this from the other side. Sorry to hear about it.

B - In my experience, students very rarely manage to appeal a decision, but routinely appeal the application of procedures. If there are written procedures, you de facto agreed to them when signed up for the course. An appeal will almost certainly succeed if the procedures weren't followed to the letter.
posted by cromagnon at 1:11 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

This would never fly at my university.

Professors have a responsibility to the students as much as students have responsibility for themselves. We had a professor lose an exam and he told the student to retake it. The student brought this concern to the chair of our department who agreed that a professor losing an exam is not adequate reason to make the student retake the exam --- what if the student did better? what if the student did worse? Why should the student be expected to sit for another entire class period of time outside of class to retake an exam the student took?

The student brought in multiple suggestions on how to deal with the situation and understood fully somehow the grade would have to be assessed. The conclusion they came to was that the student would write a paper on the topics covered in the exam, and if the professor found the exam in the meantime, the paper would count as extra credit on top of the exam grade.

That policy is ridiculous, and I'm sure there are ways around it. But you need to have reasonable solutions as to what those ways could be, so when you communicate with whichever office at your institution that handles this, have four or five workable suggestions to offer. Losing an exam is inexcusable. Sure, it happens, but it's still inexcusable. And their method of dealing with it sounds so out of line with modern higher education that I can't begin to imagine what they're thinking.
posted by zizzle at 3:49 AM on June 15, 2011

Ever wonder why you have to sit there while they collect the exam papers (this is Australian universities) at the end of the exam? It's because some jerks would swipe a random exam on the way out and bam- no exam from you. So now you have to wait while the invigilators collect up the exams and count them.
posted by titanium_geek at 4:18 AM on June 15, 2011

I'm curious about why you don't have time to do another exam.

If taking the exam involves traveling back to the school perhaps you can convince the school to let you take the exam closer to where you are currently. Such as another college or university that will proctor the examination for your school.
posted by Green With You at 6:25 AM on June 15, 2011

I really feel for you, and you can fight this, but since they have the policy in writing and you probably agreed to it by default by using the school-approved invigilator, I think you will end up re-sitting the exam.

A couple questions to bring in to your meeting or appeal about this: Invigilator doesn't keep their receipts after 30 days? Why not? That's a really arbitrary timeline. Should be computerized copies of receipts kept until next term or something at least. Why is this invigilator still school-approved after losing exams?

Also, do YOU have a receipt? Not that I think they will waive their policy, but I feel you should be given a receipt, and their should be some way to track the shipment of exams, just like you can track any package.

Is there an option for you to have them scan your test in or turn it in another way? I think it is a valid concern that if you sit the exam again, it could be lost again. What are the school and the invigilator going to do to ensure that doesn't happen?
posted by misha at 10:01 AM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: I thank all of you for your advice. Your help has helped me resolve this situation with Athabasca. Fortunately, the courier was able to provide evidence that the exam did reach Athabasca. Athabasca in turn accepted responsibility, and following Hal_c_on's advice, accepted to average out a final grade from my previous coursework in lieu of a final exam. I'm satisfied with this resolution and hope that this thread can help people in the future in the event of a lost exam. An Athabasca representative told me that he enjoyed reading this thread (apparently their marketing team hunts for these posts), so it is not too far off to suspect that some of these comments might have influenced Athabasca's decision. Again, I appreciate everyone's help. My exam is still lost (this was one exam I thought I did quite well on), but I feel like I won a lottery. Weird how that works.
posted by Knigel at 10:56 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

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