Open letter from the RSM bachelor student community
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Open Letter to RSM
Dear RSM Program Management, Examination Board, Adri Meijdam, and Prof. Ansgar Richter,
After the recent “Update 3” announcement, stating the measures that RSM will put in place regarding the exams, the RSM community has decided to get together and draft this letter to voice our concerns. Our main issue revolves around the written exams being postponed to the end of June or July. This letter is the result of an exceptional collaboration between a large number of bachelor students within the faculty. We have gathered the input of IBA and BA first year, second year and third year students and would like to present you with a summary of the shortcomings of the current solution. Moreover, we would like to propose some tangible solutions that would benefit all the parties involved.
We first gathered feedback by listing all the potential problems that each cohort of BA/IBA students will encounter if nothing changes. We then summarized it into this letter. This letter does not claim to have any scientific ground, it merely encompasses the general sentiment regarding the current situation. We want to emphasize that a lot of students came together within the span of one day to express their concern for how events will unfold and suggest feasible, sensible solutions.
To start off, we would like to highlight the overarching problems which affect us all, regardless of which year we are currently in. These concerns can be put into three categories: safety, costs and uncertainty. IBA is made up of 65% international students. Although this has always been an advantage, we believe that RSM’s diversity might be a complicating factor in the pandemic situation. Gathering 1500 people in one room after a global pandemic is definitely not desirable. Due to some mild pre-existing lung-related medical conditions or asthma, some of us have expressed the fear of even coming back to campus. Sitting in one room with people from all over the world is thus not an option for those students. Secondly, the costs related to coming back to Rotterdam should be taken into consideration. We were encouraged to head home, rents in the Hatta Building have changed accordingly, now we are expected to come back. Most of us are not in the country anymore, we do not have a place to stay, we would have to rent a hotel room for 3 weeks simply to attend exams. Some of us need to work during the summer to save up money to live during the year, not to mention the parents who have and will be laid off because of this crisis. Therefore, postponing the written exams to July, and the re-sits potentially in August, would be a financial disaster for many of us. Thirdly, the uncertainty vehiculated by the “Update 3” is not acceptable anymore. Most of us have commitments starting in July. These include, and are not limited to, internships, full-time positions, summer schools, exchanges or masters. We cannot afford to wait until May or June to know the exact dates of exams and re-sits. Universities all around the globe have provided answers and solutions weeks if not months ago, we do not understand why RSM is not able to do the same. This uncertainty does not allow us the prepare well for lectures and exams. As every type of learning requires a different approach, we would like to know specifically how the evaluation for each course will be handled. In addition to affecting our learning process, this failure to take a concrete decision will further increase the costs related to coming back to the Netherlands as last-minute plane ticket will not be cheap. Overall, we would like to put forth two main concerns that RSM should prioritize in their decision-making process: finishing the year on time, without exams in July (except re-sits) and not having to come back to Rotterdam.
In addition to these problems shared at the faculty level, every cohort of IBA/BA has specific problems. We hereby provide you with an exhaustive list of all the concerns and our proposed solutions. The solutions presented below are inspired by universities all around the globe. Even in the Netherlands, Leiden, Delft, Amsterdam or Radboud universities have been able to provide online assessments alternatives. We strongly believe that RSM could do the same.
- First year students are concerned about the effect on their health, motivation and grades of having to study 2 years with almost no break. Similarly, they mention the fear of not being able to cope with Block 3 subjects while also maintaining pace with block 4 subjects, and, for some students, preparing the re-sits for Block 2 subjects.
- First year students have already planned internships, summer jobs and summer schools starting in July.
- First year students do not want to delay their studies. They want to finish on time, in three years.
Solutions per course:
- Spreadsheet modelling (BT1112): This course is particularly well suited for an online test. Test 3 could thus be conducted online. To ensure that some time-zones are not favorized over the others, a 24 hours windows could be given during which students could take the exam.
- Macroeconomics (BT1110): An online exam seems again like the best option. There could be different versions of this exam. It could take place at an earlier time such as April/May.
- Finance (BT1109): An assignment, perhaps similar to the one completed in accounting, could be a viable assessment method. An online exam would also be suitable. Students have voiced the need to adapt the corporate finance course of next year as not everyone will be on the same level.
- Statistics (BT1111): Both assignments and online exams are perfectly suitable for this subject. Leiden University had an assignment and an online exam as a substitute for their written exams of statistics. We think that, by providing more than one version and by limiting the possibility of returning back to a question, RSM could cancel out any grade difference between real and online exams.
- Block 4 courses: The Operation Management course has already some online tests and could use the online platform connect more. Doing so, it could bypass the need for an exam. QDM and BIM are courses which could be centered around assignments instead of exams. In any case, given the nature of the open-book exam of QDM, an online alternative is totally doable as it would not change anything from its written form.
- Re-sits: re-sits could be replaced by assignments. If this is not to the taste of RSM’s professors, it is crucial to offer online alternatives.
- BSA: postponing the Binding Study Advice to next year is not perceived as an adequate solution. The pressure to pass a multitude of examinations over a condensed period will negatively impact students. We, therefore, invite RSM to reconsider its current solution.
- Some second-year students need to leave for exchange in July already. In addition, July and August are going to be hectic months as exchange students have to move and figure out everything in the respective exchange destinations (especially for the international students who are unable to return to Rotterdam until the last minute since flights are not happening).,
- Some second-year students have already secured internship in July/August abroad.
- For the other second-year students, who are actively looking for internships, the uncertainty of the current program does not allow those students to find an internship.
- Second- year students do not want to delay their studies. They want to finish on time, in three years.
Solutions per course:
- Cross-Cultural Management (BAB23): the living diversity report could count for 50% of the grade. An online exam could test for the theory. The already taken quizzes (5%) could be accounted for in the final grade.
- Strategic Management (BAB18): more weight could be attributed to the three assignments that have already been completed. An online examination could also be conducted in the form of essay-like open questions.
- Trimester 6 courses: overall, more weight could be given to the already planned assignments (e.g. to the cases in Marketing Management (BAB25)) and additional individual assignments could be given to the students (e.g. in International Marketing Research (BAB011)). Some courses are also particularly well-suited for an essay-type of online assessment, such as Leadership, Sustainability and Governance (BAB29) and Marketing Management (BAB25).
- Some master’s degrees start in July/August. Many third-year students have already accepted their offer, paid deposits and arranged housing. Having exams in July results in delayed graduation, which in turn might lead to admission denial. Additionally, getting denied for an admitted master program will also result in a forced gap year.
- Some third-year students have accepted internship and full-time positions starting mid-June. In the current “Update 3” announcement, there is no mention of a potential solution for all of them.
- Some international students need to apply for a “Zoekjaar” visa. This process can only be initiated once students have successfully completed all their bachelor courses. It would be ideal to receive this visa before August/September since it is when many internship positions open.
- Corporate finance, which saw a 30% passing rate at the resit last year, is an important concern for many third-year students. The “Update 3” email mentioned the possibility of postponing some re-sits to the next academic year. This would force third-year students to stay registered as students for one more year at RSM, preventing them from graduating with their cohort.
Solutions per course:
- Human Resource Management (BAD11): more weight could be attributed to the Group Portfolio assignment. Due to the nature of the course, an online test could also be conducted in May to avoid students to be overwhelmed by both trimester 8 and trimester 9 course content. As an alternative, individual assignments on the content not covered by the Group Portfolio could be given to the students.
- Foundations of Business Law (BAD15): as the midterm has been conducted online, the same could be done with the final examination. This would require a more case-oriented approach. We see this as a viable solution, which would be more analytical and less theoretical. In addition, this online assessment could already take place in May.
- Trimester 9 courses: These courses could be assessed with a mix of weekly quizzes (as already done in Financial Accounting (BAD06) and individual assignments as in Innovation Management (BAD01). Additionally, open book online exams could be put in place, in the form of an essay for Innovation Management (BAD10), or of essay/complex problems for Financial accounting (BAD06) and Supply Chain Management (BAD13).
In conclusion, it is easy to retrieve patterns from the above-mentioned solutions. Students propose to replace exams with assignments or essay-style exams when it is possible. Specifically, open questions are particularly well-suited for essays. Obviously, this solution is not always applicable. In that case, we recommend opting for online exams or weekly quizzes. These can be done in batches and have time limits. Online examinations could be accessible during a 24-hour slot to allow all international students to take the test at a reasonable time. We are aware that these solutions will require more manpower, hiring TAs might be necessary, but this is the best solution at the moment. This will ensure that students stay physically and mentally healthy as uncertainty will have faded.
Above all, we expect a clear and timely communication from both our faculty and our professors. Most of us are disappointed by how the situation was handled so far, with little information being communicated to the student body. Some professors have not sent a single announcement to their students since the beginning of the crisis. We, therefore, encourage RSM to improve its overall communication strategy.
We are all proud to be part of the Rotterdam School of Management’s community. We all want to be a force for positive change but, today, given the circumstances, it is hard to do so. We ask for proactiveness, understanding and trust. Other universities, even in The Netherlands, have created a system for all examinations to take place online. By refusing to do so, we are afraid that the reputation of RSM will suffer. Instead of being at the forefront of innovation, our institution will look rigid and unable to adapt to the ever more changing environment.
We would like to thank you for your consideration, and we are looking forward to hearing from you.
The RSM Student Community.
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