Dec. 9, 2019

Staff ready to support students on day one of finals

Some behind-the-scenes ways staff are working to make exam season less stressful

Author

Nouran Abdellatif, Student and Enrolment Services

Commissioners for oaths

Commissioners for oaths Anita Gee and Joel May get their stamps ready for exam season.

Nouran Abdellatif, Student Enrolment Services

Did you know that this semester’s final exam schedule accounts for 881 courses, 543 instructors, 22,545 students, and 69,867 student exams – all within a 10-day period?

As students studied furiously over the past weeks, UCalgary’s staff were also busily preparing to support them through this often-stressful time.

Statutory declarations an alternative to medical notes

One special support for students is statutory declarations. Students who need to verify their reason for absence can take a statutory declaration with one of the commissioners for oaths now available on campus. A statutory declaration isn’t a formal requirement, but it’s one more option available for students. UCalgary approved the statutory declaration process in June 2018, making it one of the few universities in Canada that use statutory declarations as an alternative to medical notes.

Statutory declarations are all about giving students more control over how they want to validate their absence. “It empowers students to make their own decisions for disclosure,” says deputy registrar Vanessa Wood. “This is a positive change.”

Another benefit is that more physician appointments are available for students who require medical care. “Now that medical notes are not a requirement, students are not required to make an appointment with a physician, nor pay the third-party fee for a doctor’s note,” says Debbie Bruckner, senior director of Student Wellness, Access and Support. “Appointments are freed up within the health clinic at Student Wellness Services.”

Approach frees up appointment time at Student Wellness

Between October 2018 and October 2019, the commissioners for oaths across UCalgary completed approximately 1,700 statutory declarations.

Anita Gee, undergraduate awards officer, and Joel May, manager of undergraduate awards, are both commissioners for oaths who frequently see students to complete their statutory declarations.

“It’s more than just another task for me,” says Gee. “I really enjoy talking to the students and seeing how they’re doing. Sometimes this can be a stressful time for them, so I’m so happy to be able to help by providing this service – even if it’s just in a small way.”

“We give students another option to be able to provide supporting documentation that might be needed without the student having the burden of leaving campus or paying for the documentation,” adds May.

More information on statutory declarations including FAQ for students and FAQ for faculty can be found on the Office of the Registrar’s website.  

Scheduling improves thanks to new algorithm

Another lesser-known way the university works to help students during exams is through continual improvements to exam scheduling.

Over the past two years, a team in the Office of the Registrar has developed and applied a new scheduling algorithm to reduce the number of students with inconvenient exam times. A number of the changes implemented resulted from student feedback.

Comparing fall 2017 to fall 2019, the number of students taking three exams in 24 hours decreased by 93 per cent, the number of students with back-to-back exams decreased by 25 per cent, and the number of students with exams at 7 p.m. and then 8:30 a.m. the next day decreased by 84 per cent.

The team has also reduced the number of students with more than one exam on the same day and with exams on consecutive days.

“The team has done a terrific job using innovative methods to improve the exam schedule for students,” says Angelique Saweczko, registrar. “Exam scheduling might not sound like an exciting topic, but for students stressed about finals as they work to reach their academic goals, a thoughtful approach to exam scheduling can make a big difference. That’s why we keep pressing to make improvements year after year.”

Student discount at Hotel Alma

Even the best of exam schedules, however, unfortunately can’t control the weather. With fall semester finals in December, winter weather is always a possible complication for students. That’s why Residence Services gives students the option to book a room at Hotel Alma at a reduced rate.

During the academic year, rooms for students are only $35 a night, offering students who don’t live close to campus a safe, convenient and affordable place to stay — whether they don’t want to worry about getting to campus in snowy weather, or they simply want to stay on campus to focus on preparing for the next day’s exam. Students can take advantage of this option by booking at ucalgary.ca/accommodations and using the promo code USCRR.