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SU representative hopes to improve exam scheduling for engineers

By Tina Shaygan, February 15 2018 — 

Students’ Union engineering representative Chinmoy Ayachit wants to review final exam scheduling for students in his faculty. Ayachit, along with a number of other students, will be working with the registrar’s office over the summer as part of a special research project to review the algorithm used for exam scheduling and find ways to improve it.

According to Ayachit, students in engineering have complained about final exam scheduling for a long time.

“What really bothers me is that people have just accepted the fact that finals are supposed to be super stressful,” Ayachit said. “I think students should not be exposed to more stress than necessary.”

According to University of Calgary registrar Angelique Saweczko, final exam scheduling regulations and guidelines are approved in General Faculties Council. She said the U of C utilizes an algorithm to schedule over 60,000 exams per term.

“The algorithm looks at what courses students are registered in so we develop a conflict-free schedule,” Saweczko said. “We also look at patterns and try to reduce back-to-back exams as much as we possibly can, but it’s pretty complex.

“We’re hiring a couple summer students — Chinmoy is one of them — to work with our manager of curriculum scheduling and look at the algorithm we’ve created to run the exam schedule and see how we can improve it,” Saweczko added.

Ayachit said his plan consists of three points: making final exam schedules available to students before the drop deadline, ensuring minimum time between each exam and reviewing historical enrolment data to identify recurring problems.

SU business representative Nik Golob said exam scheduling is currently an important issue in his faculty.

“I think it’s really beneficial and a long-time coming for students,” Golob said. “Honestly, every single time exams come around, people are angry and stressed out. There’s no reason why students can have three exams in 27 hours versus 24. I don’t see a difference there.”

Current U of C policy states that students may defer a final exam if they have three or more within a 24-hour period. According to Ayachit, this policy “fails to account for practical realities of student hardship and distress in situations that fall just outside this scope.”

Improving exam schedules has come up in SU candidates’ platforms in the past. Ayachit said his plan is different because he is looking at historical data to identify problem areas. He added that with the possible combination of courses available to students, solving every issue is “practically impossible” and providing students exam schedules before the drop deadline would allow them to be prepared.

“Obviously, it’s nice if most of the schedules are spaced out so students don’t have to make that tough choice,” Ayachit said. “[With this project], you’d be decreasing the number of students who have to make that decision.”

“It’s a very detailed activity and we’re always happy to have other people take a look at it,”  Saweczko said. “If someone can give a recommendation on doing something better, we’re open to suggestions.”

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