Results in the age of COVID-19

Results have come in for the 2019/2020 academic year. This is a strange year for results, because they’re not necessarily based solely on the efforts of the students. For modules with cancelled exams (as opposed to those which substituted an EMA or did a home-exam alternative) students got an adjustment to their OCAS score in line with how module students have done on their OES relative to their OCAS over the last three years. As students typically do worse on their exams than on their coursework, in practice this means that students get a deduction of their OCAS based on previous years’ students.

It hasn’t been pretty. There are a lot of unhappy students, and some quite understandably so. Students of M250 are reporting deductions against their OCAS by as many as 10 marks, so you may have needed an OCAS of 95 to get a distinction. (Note that these figures are not verified, just social media chatter.)

My only module to fall into this category was M269. My OCAS was 95, and I got an adjustment down to 93.1 for my module result. Somebody else said a 5 mark difference cost them a distinction.

For TT284 and TM257, I had a standard EMA (with TM257 being informed by a very non-standard day school alternative). I didn’t do as well as I’d have liked on either (91 and 89 OES respectively) but I just couldn’t focus for anything in lock-down. And to paraphrase someone on the OU STEM Discord server, it reflects my effort level fairly.

Anyway, long story short, I’ll take three distinctions and run this year. It was never going to be easy doing three modules in the same year, so I’m grateful to have done it during a pandemic.


  1. I’ve would agree with you that the adjustments down were a little disappointing. I similarly did three units this year TM129, M250 and M269. Both my M250 and M269 OCAS were above the 85 mark and dropped below post adjustments. I can’t say I’m surprised given that you would expect the exams to be harder to achieve a high grade in than the TMAs given the limitations on time and resources in an exam. What scuppered me was the need for an extension and then the panicked rush job I ended up doing on the last TMAs due to the unexpected work commitment as a teacher. That said I can’t say I’m upset with missing a couple of exams so like you I’m going to take my results and run. I’ve got TM257 and TT284 next year, both areas I’m relatively familiar with so I’m hoping to pick up some 1s there. I look forward to your reviews of your units from this year as I appear to be following in your footsteps.

    1. Hi Roger! That’s rough that you got dropped past grading boundaries. I looked at my M250 scores from last year, and I did drop 10 marks between my OCAS and OES. (That also means I’m partially to blame for that average … Sorry about that.)
      Lock-down Brain has seriously affected my memory, so right now I’m not even sure whether or not TM257 and TT284 were enjoyable. I’ll figure it out eventually. Good luck on them next year.

      1. It was a fair enough result, I only visited the site on the week of the tma’s and then rushed them all. I even got a £50 voucher for taking part in an interview as their algorithm predicted I wouldn’t submit one of the TMAs based on my lack of site activity. I’m a little concerned having read your review of TT284 (this years fun along with TM257). The study calendar seems pretty empty and I have found the forum post activities to be the least enjoyable part of the OU courses so far. The first TMA seems a bit vague hopefully I will find revisiting my old skill set from 20 years ago fun regardless. Good luck with your next units, given your current scores I suspect you just need to get one more distinction then hold above 70% for everything else, sounds reasonable.

  2. Congratulations on your results Mark, I also came out with a 89 in TM257 – I just assumed I did pretty badly in Q3 (the essay question) and dropped the marks there (given we knew the marks from CISCO(Q1) and the day school(Q2) and Q4 was more of the same so should have been easy to score highly on).
    M249’s remote exam was hard work – I spent 10 hours on the submission for what was nominally a 3 hour exam
    1 – It was typeset rather than handwritten so some of the time was spent on this.
    2 – I was up against others who would spend similar amount of time on their submission and with a promise of no grade inflation I needed to spend the time ensuring I ended up in the same cohort of marks.
    3 – I was lazy and didn’t do the revision I would have done for a conventional exam – so spent a lot more time hunting through the materials for formulae and layouts that I should have practiced in the run up.

    I’ve registered for M269 and M343 next year and have sourced a set of M343 texts to start in advance – so much for a summer off!

    1. Yeah, the overall EMA results for TM257 seem quite low. I’ve seen a high of 93 so far, and only a handful of distinctions.
      Congratulations on your excellent results! (Okay, I’m just assuming you did well on M249.)
      I’m doing nothing this summer, and I don’t even recognise this as what life’s supposed to be like. I apparently have games in Steam that I didn’t even know I had. I’ll probably end up paying for it next year, but I really needed the break after this year. Good luck on M269 and stage 3!

      1. Whoops! I missed that – yes I did get the distinction in M249 – 90%, however, it provided a breakdown of where I performed better/worse (Bayesian statistics dropped to a 70-84% band but the other 3 blocks were in the 85-100%) so this is less likely to have been marked down and obfuscated.
        Some clarity by the OU on what was done to normalise the results would be nice though.

  3. I was totally livid with my result from m250. Loved the module, found it easy and enjoyable. Got an overall of 93% (just the usual few silly errors). Tutor told me I’d get a distinction no problem. Then the result came and they’ve taken 9% which has put me to 84 and no distinction. Apparently there has been a lot of upset lately with universities giving away too many high marks. KInda feels like they’re filling a quota rather than looking at my work fairly. All I want is the statistics and algorithm they used to calculate but they’re refusing. Even if people on average with a 93 on had ended up with 84 overall, half of them would have gotten better. I feel robbed and extremely cheesed off that they couldn’t even stretch that 1% being as it was borderline. Don’t trust the result one bit. I also done m269 and they only took 5% and I thought that subject was harder than the simple java programs. Anyone else done the m250 previously and had such a 10% drop after doing the end of year exam?

    1. For M250, I dropped from 100% OCAS to 90% OES taking the exam last year. Now, that did include me skipping two entire question parts that I didn’t see because I had to use the loo. However, a 10% drop is fairly common for M250. Indeed, I’ve spoken with someone who dropped around 30% from OCAS to OES on M250.

      Borderline cases do not appear to have been treated the same this year as they have in years past, and previously an 84.5 would round up, whereas this year an 84.9 is truncating down. But the flip-side to this is that in the modules where module heads have been open to discussing it, results appear to be slightly up this year on previous years. It’s the lack of student control over those results that’s the tragedy.

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