A multiple choice exam (MCQ) was cancelled in the Quinn School of Business last week following allegations of cheating amongst some students.
The exam in the Financial Accounting II module, a core module for a number of degree programmes within the undergraduate School of Business, was cancelled after it emerged that some Commerce Students had photocopied their exam paper and shared copies with their counterparts in second year Business & Law (B&L) who were due to sit the exam later that week.
The module is taken by both Commerce and B&L students at different times throughout the academic week. An identical exam paper was therefore given to both groups of students, to be taken during their respective class times. The exam was intended to form 25 per cent of the overall grade for the subjects.
B&L students were informed of the cancellation by the module co-ordinator, Professor Niamh Brennan, at the beginning of their Wednesday morning class during which the exam was to take place.
The result of cancelling the exam means that the final grade for all students in Financial Accounting II will weigh upon their performance at the end of semester examinations. This incorporates students who had taken the exam on Tuesday 10th, because the School may not be allowed divide exam grades based on those that took the exam and those that did not.
This is the second time this year that a module in the Quinn School has been under scrutiny following allegations of MCQ cheating. In March, an exam for the ten-credit core Strategy Formulation & Implementation module was affected when students took copies of the questions given and shared them with classmates taking the MCQ at later dates. Following significant student unrest, it was decided to allow the results of the exam to stand on that occasion.
According to the Principles of Good Practice in Continuous Assessment, as approved by UCD’s Academic Council on the 23rd April 2009, “No significant changes in the nature or timing of continuous assessments should occur once the semester has started, except in exceptional circumstances, in which case the changes should be signed off by the Programme Dean.” As this guideline is merely a principle, however, Prof. Brennan upholds the right to change the assessment details communicated to her students at the beginning of semester.
Students’ Union Education Officer, Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin, has disagreed with the move to expunge the MCQ results from the module’s assessment, saying he felt “that Professor Brennan has taken the wrong course of action in this case; I would have hoped that some sort of contingency would be in place to deal with the possibility of ‘cheating’ in the course’s continuous assessment components.
Ó Súilleabháin added that he hoped “the Quinn School learns from this exercise, and reviews their in-house examination practices so as not to unfairly disadvantage students in this manner again. It’s important that students have confidence in the examinations process.”
The University Observer contacted Prof. Brennan on the matter but had not received a response aat the time of going to print. In a speech given to her class, Prof. Brennan commented that Ireland’s “cute hoorism” was to blame for the apparent cheating.
No disciplinary action has yet been taken against the accused students. A decision on whether the 25 per cent exam will still be considered when calculating final grades for the module has been referred to the Registrar, Dr Philip Nolan.