Skip to main content Skip to navigation

FAQs in response to the SSLC Term 2 Survey

Below you will find responses regarding:


Assignments and Extensions

What will happen if lockdown/the current situation extends into term three and what does this mean for assignments?

We will all be very disappointed if the lockdown extends into term 3. If it does, then we will need to continue the current programme of online teaching. At least we have now all developed considerable experience with this mode of teaching and learning.

In terms of assignments, we recognise the impact that the continued closure of libraries and archives has on your work. We continue to push hard at university level for the university to recognise the particular impact that the continued lockdown has on arts students. We have stressed the ways in which history students have lost access to libraries and archives. So we’re very aware of the ways in which these events are impacting on you.

In response, we have modified the nature of assignments so that they reflect what is feasible in the current circumstances. Concretely, we have stressed the fact that you can submit shorter pieces of work. We have relaxed the marking criteria. We have changed certain assessments. We have reintroduced our Covid-19 Cover Sheet, which provides a space for you to explain how your research has been impacted by library closures and the like, so that we can take these factors into account when marking. We have also relaxed expectations about how many sources you consult. You can read more about this here.

These measures are designed to support you in completing assignments in the real-life circumstances in which we all find ourselves. We believe this is better than offering blanket extensions that simple push the problem further down the road. We’d like to support you in handing in the work so that you can move forward.

Of course, if you personally need an extension, you can also apply for one. You can use your self-certifications, to begin with. If you’ve used up your automatic self-certifications, you can apply for additional extensions, in the usual way, via tabula. In recognition of the ongoing pandemic, the university has again relaxed the requirements regarding what sort evidence you need to produce once you’ve used up your automatic extensions.

In addition, please also make use of the mitigating circumstances portal if you would like to apply for mitigation. In light of the pandemic the University has relaxed its requirements regarding evidence; you can read about this here.

 

Would you consider moving deadlines which are due in the same week to reduce stress and workload?

We look carefully at deadlines and try to space these out as much possible, while also allowing you as much time as possible to complete work, and for that work to be marked and returned. Sometimes, in spite of this, you may have deadlines falling in the same period. If we were unilaterally to move these for all students, this would result in other students having deadline clashes.

If however you personally need an extension, you can apply for one. You can use your self-certifications, to begin with. If you’ve used up your automatic self-certifications, you can apply for additional extensions, in the usual way, via tabula. In recognition of the ongoing pandemic, the university has again relaxed the requirements regarding what sort evidence you need to produce once you’ve used up your automatic extensions.

In addition, please also make use of the mitigating circumstances portal if you would like to apply for mitigation. In light of the pandemic the University has relaxed its requirements regarding evidence; you can read about this here.

 

Whether or not we return in week 7 will the essays due at the end of term be given at least a 3/4 week extension as there would be 5 weeks plus reading week where we would not have been able to access resources?

Last year, when we offered such a blanket extension, as a result of the sudden lockdown, it caused a high level of stress among students, as it led to many assignments being due in the first weeks of term 3. We would prefer to support you by modifying the assignments so as to make them do-able, rather than postponing them until later in the year. You can read more about how we are doing this here.We are however continually reviewing the situation and if necessary will make changes to deadlines if we think this is what is needed, so we certainly are not ruling this out.

 

Why are extensions not applied to all assignments?

We recognise the impact that the continued closure of libraries and archives has on your work. We pushed hard at university level for the university to recognise the particular impact that the continued lockdown has on arts students. We have stressed the ways in which history students have lost access to libraries and archives. So we’re very aware of the ways in which these events are impacting on you.

In response, we have modified the nature of assignments so that they reflect what is feasible in the current circumstances. Concretely, we have stressed the fact that you can submit shorter pieces of work. We have relaxed the marking criteria. We have changed certain assessments. We have reintroduced our Covid-19 Cover Sheet, which provides a space for you to explain how your research has been impacted by library closures and the like, so that we can take these factors into account when marking. We have also relaxed expectations about how many sources you consult. You can read more about this here.

These measures are designed to support you in completing assignments in the real-life circumstances in which we all find ourselves. We believe this is better than offering blanket extensions that simple push the problem further down the road. We’d like to support you in handing in the work so that you can move forward.

Of course, if you personally need an extension, you can also apply for one. You can use your self-certifications, to begin with. If you’ve used up your automatic self-certifications, you can apply for additional extensions, in the usual way, via tabula. In recognition of the ongoing pandemic, the university has again relaxed the requirements regarding what sort evidence you need to produce once you’ve used up your automatic extensions.

In addition, please also make use of the mitigating circumstances portal if you would like to apply for mitigation. In light of the pandemic the University has relaxed its requirements regarding evidence; you can read about this here.

 

Why are automatic extensions only available until 1st February when lockdown is very likely to last longer than that? Our issue of the availability of sources will still be there after that date.

The University’s explanation is that these extensions were intended to mitigate against the impact of the sudden change in teaching plans. They were not intended to mitigate against online teaching more generally.

As a department, however, we recognise that the closure of libraries and archives has a particular negative effect on history students. For that reason we have introduced a range of measures to support you in completing assignments. You can read more about this here. We think these are more effective than blanket extensions.

Of course, if you personally need an extension, you can also apply for one. You can use your self-certifications, to begin with. If you’ve used up your automatic self-certifications, you can apply for additional extensions, in the usual way, via tabula. In recognition of the ongoing pandemic, the university has again relaxed the requirements regarding what sort evidence you need to produce once you’ve used up your automatic extensions.

 

What help, adjustments and lenience can be offered to finalists trying to write a dissertation in these challenging conditions?

All dissertation students are encouraged to speak with your supervisors about how the lockdown might impact your plans for your dissertation. If the closure of archives or libraries has meant that you cannot write the dissertation you intended, you can either reshape the project with the help of your supervisor, or you can use the Covid Coversheet to explain how your research has been affected, and we will take this into account in the marking. We did this last year with good success. In order to ensure that all markers take the Coversheet into account in the marks, the Dissertations Coordinator will also moderate all dissertations submitted with a Coversheet to ensure parity and fairness.

We have not reduced the word count for the Dissertation because we felt that would be restrictive: even in the circumstances of the pandemic, we expect that most students will overshoot the word limit for the Dissertation in your first drafts. However if the lack of access to archives or libraries means that you cannot complete sections of your dissertation, you can submit a shorter piece of work, along with the explanation on the Covid Coversheet.

We have also extended the deadline for the Dissertation Presentation to now take place by the end of Week 6, in line with the university’s extensions for deadlines falling in January.

 

Exams:

Why has the department not cancelled online examinations? Why are we still having exams when all GCSEs and A levels are cancelled?

Last year we converted the small number of exams set in the history department into take-home exams. The format was exactly the same as that of the exams in earlier years, so students could use the archives of past exams to revise. We found this worked well, and our analysis did not identify any statistical deviation from previous years in the run of marks, which indicated that these take-home exams did not place students at a disadvantage.

Since this approach to exams worked well, we are confident that this year’s take-home will offer a fair and effective complement other assignments. There is a great deal of information about take-home exams, including lots of FAQs, here.

 

How will marking guidance be updated for the 7-day take home exams considering the extra disruption to learning this term?

We have already modified our marking criteria in light of the closure of libraries and archives, and the general wearing and draining effects of the ongoing pandemic. These modified criteria are what we will use for marking take-home exams. You can see these modified marking criteria here.

 

What format are exams going to be in? How will exams be conducted?

The sad events of the pandemic last year gave us good experience in running online exams. What we did last year worked well and we will be repeating it this coming year. For modules that have exams, these will consist of a take-home exam. The format will be exactly the same as the exams that used to be sat in examination halls—so you can use the same archives of past exams to revise for this year. Our analysis did not identify any statistical deviation from previous years in the run of marks, so we are confident that these take-home exams do not place you at a disadvantage. There is a great deal of information about take-home exams, including lots of FAQs, here.

We won’t insist you sit them in a 24 hour period. You have 7 days to take the exam. We don’t expect you to spend any longer on these exams than you would if you were sitting them in a hall. If it is a two-hour exam, we’ll be expecting you to spend two hours on it, but you can stop and start as you prefer. The 7-day window for taking the exam means that you can take the exam at the times that best suit you, and that you don’t need to worry about your internet connection dropping during a timed exam, etc. The exam timetable will be released towards the start of term 3.

 

Are we going to be given more details regarding end of year exams and what will be expected of us so that we are able to prepare to the best of our abilities?

The sad events of the pandemic last year gave us good experience in running online exams. What we did last year worked well and we will be repeating it this coming year. For modules that have exams, these will consist of a take-home exam. The format will be exactly the same as the exams that used to be sat in examination halls—so you can use the same archives of past exams to revise for this year. Our analysis did not identify any statistical deviation from previous years in the run of marks, so we are confident that these take-home exams do not place you at a disadvantage. There is a great deal of information about take-home exams, including lots of FAQs, here. Your tutors can also be able to give you advice about how to revise for specific modules, and about writing good exam answers. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with them if you have questions.

We won’t insist you sit them in a 24 hour period. You have 7 days to take the exam. We don’t expect you to spend any longer on these exams than you would if you were sitting them in a hall. If it is a two-hour exam, we’ll be expecting you to spend two hours on it, but you can stop and start as you prefer. The 7-day window for taking the exam means that you can take the exam at the times that best suit you, and that you don’t need to worry about your internet connection dropping during a timed exam, etc. The exam timetable will be released towards the start of term 3.

 

Mitigating Circumstances:

Will we have more mitigation for assessments as we can't get to the library?

We recognise the impact that the continued closure of libraries and archives has on your work. We pushed hard at university level for the university to recognise the particular impact that the continued lockdown has on arts students. We have stressed the ways in which history students have lost access to libraries and archives. So we’re very aware of the ways in which these events are impacting on you.

In response, we have modified the nature of assignments so that they reflect what is feasible in the current circumstances. Concretely, we have stressed the fact that you can submit shorter pieces of work. We have relaxed the marking criteria. We have changed certain assessments. We have reintroduced our Covid-19 Cover Sheet, which provides a space for you to explain how your research has been impacted by library closures and the like, so that we can take these factors into account when marking. We have also relaxed expectations about how many sources you consult. You can read more about this here.

We are also liaising regularly with the library about what you need, and the library is now offering various things that are specific responses to the new lockdown, such as posting books out for free—with free returns—and offering a scanning service. The Modern Records Centre is also offering a scan-and-deliver service. We’ve also relaxed the expectations regarding what sources you use in your assignments, etc., because we all know what is going on. If there are specific things you’d like the library to offer, let us or your SSLC reps know and we can liaise to see what is possible.

 

Which measures will be put in place to ensure mitigation similar to last year?

This pandemic is taking a toll on all of us. Many of us are finding it more difficult to concentrate, and retain a positive outlook. In addition, historians face particular challenges with the closure of libraries and archives. We recognise that all these factors may be making it harder for you to study and learn.

At present the university is not planning to introduce a new version of the safety net. The university has various reasons for this decision and you can study their thinking here. At the same time, last year’s overall package of mitigation measures will carry forward for future exam boards, in relation to marks from 2019-20.

As a department we don’t have the power to introduce our own safety net—this decision must be taken at a university level. (You can imagine the chaos it would cause to joint degree students if one department introduced a safety net and the other one didn’t, for instance.) What we have done is implement a range of mitigation measures of our own, which you can read about here. For instance, we have introduced a range of mitigation measures. We have modified the nature of assignments so that they reflect what is feasible in the current circumstances. Concretely, we have stressed the fact that you can submit shorter pieces of work. We have relaxed the marking criteria. We have changed certain assessments. We have reintroduced our Covid-19 Cover Sheet, which provides a space for you to explain how your research has been impacted by library closures and the like, so that we can take these factors into account when marking. We have also relaxed expectations about how many sources you consult.

 

Remote Learning:

How will online resources be improved for individuals completing dissertations, and those needing more ebook access for core reading (e.g., a core reading having one access availability). Can more ebook resources be put online? And can the book ordering and postal service be free or less expensive?

We are liaising regularly with the library about what you need, and the library is now offering various things that are specific responses to the new lockdown, such as posting books out for free—with free returns—and offering a scanning service. The Modern Records Centre is also offering a scan-and-deliver service. We’ve also relaxed the expectations regarding what sources you use in your assignments, etc., because we all know what is going on. If there are specific things you’d like the library to offer, let us or your SSLC reps know and we can liaise to see what is possible.

We also encourage you to take advantage of the online resources and guides collected by the Royal Historical Society, the Institute of Historical Research, and the British Library.

 

How will the department facilitate those studying remotely?

 There is a lot of information about how we are supporting you here and here.

 

If blended learning resumes, will attendance be compulsory for international students?

International students can apply to study online all term if that is what you’d like to do. Just fill in the usual form.

 

Will teaching if possible start in week 7 or 8 or are we waiting on the government to take notice and decide at the time?

The University will await the government’s review of the national situation in the week of 15 February before deciding whether to increase the amount of f2f teaching. It’s clear from this survey alone that there are divergent views among history students about whether there should be a return to more f2f. Some of you said ‘why isn’t the whole term online already?’. Others said ‘how can you justify not offering f2f teaching now?’. What this means is that for the time being we’re continuing all online, in keeping with university and government guidelines.

 

Is there any way to reduce the size of online seminar groups? As a first year student it really difficult to make connections online and small groups would allow for more interaction between students and attention from the seminar leaders

We would love to reduce seminar sizes but we don’t have enough staff to do this! We also recognise that at present it is more difficult to make connections. We strongly encourage all students to form informal study groups to discuss teaching and learning. Teams makes this quite straightforward; please don’t hesitate to use it to create your own groups. In addition, you can take advantage of the Arts Faculty’s Study Buddies scheme, as well as the range of activities run out of the History Department, which you can follow via the Teams History Student Community Space.

 

Will students receive adequate (ideally equal) amounts of time to prepare for seminars (specifically for MMW)? Will there be less emphasis on group work online? How do you plan to vary how content is taught and approached?

We have changed the Department’s approach to assessment, including group work, to reflect the ongoing lockdown. Where necessary tutors are also modifying the seminar structure to make life easier for us all. If you have ideas about how you would like your module to be modified don’t hesitate to raise this with your tutor to see what might be possible.

 

How can engagement in online seminars be boosted? I was wondering if you could look into encouraging the use of breakout groups more often, as I feel being on call with a smaller amount of people leads to greater discussion.

 Opinion on breakout rooms is divided; the University survey last term indicated that roughly equal numbers of you want more and fewer breakout rooms. Tutors also have varied views on their effectiveness. If you would like your tutor to make more use of breakout rooms please don’t hesitate to discuss this with them.

The University survey also indicated that many of you prefer seminars where participants turn on their cameras. Tutors feel the same way. We don’t require you to turn on your camera, but if you feel able do this, it will certainly be appreciated.

 

Is there any way to have more group contact time? It would be great to have more online sessions where we can discuss work in a facilitated space.

We strongly encourage all students to form informal study groups to discuss teaching and learning. Teams makes this quite straightforward; please don’t hesitate to use it to create your own groups. In addition, you can take advantage of the Arts Faculty’s Study Buddies scheme, as well as the range of activities run out of the History Department, which you can follow via the Teams History Student Community Space.

In addition, please do come to the many research seminars, reading groups, and other research activities that take place every week just in the History Department, not to mention other departments. You can find all details on the calendar.

 

Why are some tutors making different students teach the seminar every week when I want to be learning from an academic, not a 20 year old.

Part of the idea of a seminar is to work collectively and test your ideas through discussion with others. It’s also a space for learning important historical, and transferrable, skills about giving presentations, synthesising materials effectively, and leading discussions. They’re meant to be different from lectures and to offer you a space to develop different skills.

 

Safety Net:

Will there be a safety net?

At present the university is not planning to introduce a new version of the safety net. The university has various reasons for this decision and you can study their thinking here. At the same time, last year’s overall package of mitigation measures will carry forward for future exam boards, in relation to marks from 2019-20.

As a department we don’t have the power to introduce our own safety net—this decision must be taken at a university level. (You can imagine the chaos it would cause to joint degree students if one department introduced a safety net and the other one didn’t, for instance.) What we have done is implement a range of mitigation measures of our own, which you can read about here.

 

Strike Action:

Are you going to strike, and how do I get my money back?

On 21 December 2020 the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) agreed to call off the local industrial action as a result of negotiations with the University. This means that at present there is no plan for a strike.

Some of you may have seen some reports in the newspapers that the UCU is considering calling for another strike should there be a return to blended learning. There are quite a few steps that need to be taken for a strike to occur—there need to be several ballots—so even if the UCU did decide to do this, it could not happen any time soon.