Students in ASTC 113 have finally completed their final after their exam crashed during its scheduled time, causing panic and confusion among the class’s more than 1,000 students.
The final was scheduled for April 27, but when the time came, most students were unable to access the exam. According to course instructor Dr. Doug McCollor, starting the exam on Canvas resulted in pinwheels for most rather than loading questions.
Only a small number of students could see the first question, and even fewer could access more than five. As 40 of the exam’s designated 90 minutes elapsed, the issue could not be resolved, adding to student anxiety.
Behind the scenes, McCollor said that he was coordinating with the Canvas helpdesk to resolve the issue while emails from students rolled in describing the problem, including some saying that they had other exams later in the day. When the helpdesk could not find a solution, McCollor posted an announcement on Canvas saying that the exam had been cancelled.
“The exam was cancelled because the technical problem that prevented students from logging in to their exam was not fixed, and students had other commitments starting at 5:00pm,” said McCollor.
“It was not possible to ensure that all students would have sufficient time to complete the exam at its originally scheduled time.”
The following day, McCollor sent out an email apologizing for the fiasco and announced that a makeup exam would be held over a 36-hour window from April 28 - 29. To make matters worse, the makeup exam initially failed to load as well, further exacerbating student anxiety.
Students were quick to voice their concerns with McCollor’s decision to reschedule the exam.
In a letter penned to McCollor and the Dean of Science, students alleged that the professor did not reply to emails and misled them with his use of the term “cancelled” rather than “postponed”, which caused panic when the exam was rescheduled.
“Many students have expressed their concerns regarding this decision;” the letter reads. “However, they have not heard back from the professor either by emails or by the Canvas Discussion Board and they are requesting for their voices to be heard.”
The letter also raised concerns about effects on students’ schedules and mental health, as well as a possible advantage for the few students that saw questions, and requested that the exam be waived.
In a statement sent to The Ubyssey, McCollor wrote that it was not possible to respond to individual students given the hundreds of emails being received at onceand, that the 36-hour window was meant to ensure that students would have time to take the exam.
McCollor also wrote that he had announced that the test’s weighting would be reduced to zero unless it improved a student’s final mark.
Associate Provost of Teaching and Learning Simon Bates responded to concerned students by detailing the problem and assuring students that the excessive stress was recognized.
“We apologize for the impact and inconvenience caused, and would like to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to ensure that it does not happen again,” he wrote.
Bates also wrote that it was the prerogative of the instructor to find an alternative solution — which McCollor had done — and that the problem affecting both exams was being investigated.
No ATSC 113 students responded to interview requests from The Ubyssey, but some had voiced concerns on Reddit at the time of the incident.
The situation has since been resolved and, if anything, it will prove to be a learning experience for those involved.