Coursework will not count towards final GCSE computer science grades over the next two years, England’s exams regulator has confirmed.
The move comes amid concerns about widespread cheating in the subject, which prompted Ofqual to take action to ensure that results remain “fair and reliable”.
In November, the exams watchdog launched a consultation on changes to computer science, warning there was a “real and significant” risk that if nothing was done, this summer’s GCSE computer science results would not be a “fair reflection of every student’s knowledge, skills and understanding”.
Coursework will not count towards final GCSE computer science grades, Ofqual has said. (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
It had emerged that tasks due to be completed by teenagers in schools and colleges as part of the new GCSE course have been posted online, as well as detailed solutions in many cases, according to Ofqual.
It has today confirmed that coursework will not count towards final grades this year or next, adding that the tasks are “still an important part of the course and contributes to student learning and progress”.
Students will have to be given the opportunity within the school timetable to complete the work, Ofqual added.
A decision on 2020 onwards has not yet been taken.
Ofqual chief executive, Sally Collier said: “We are pleased that so many teachers and students took the time to respond to our consultation.
“A clear majority of respondents agree that there are currently shortcomings with the non-exam assessment that could unfairly advantage some students.
“While the tasks themselves will no longer contribute to students’ grades, we strongly believe that learning about a high-level programming language and having the opportunity to show how it can be used to solve problems is hugely important.
“We believe these changes will make the qualification as fair as it can be for all students.”
Coursework, known as non-exam assessment, is completed by GCSE computer science pupils during their studies, and is currently worth 20% of their final mark.
Students due to take their exams in the subject this summer – the first time that awards will be given for the qualification – were able to start their coursework from the beginning of September last year.
But shortly afterwards Ofqual became aware that tasks and solutions were being discussed in online forums, the regulator said.
In one case, an individual asked for help with a task on designing a piece of software. The first response to this question included a full solution, Ofqual said, adding that the post currently has more than 2,500 views.
In another example, Ofqual said a simple search for a key requirement of a task on a popular online developer community returned over 40 pages of results.
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For the virtual learning environment, see CourseWork Course Management System.
Coursework is work performed by students or trainees for the purpose of learning. Coursework may be specified and assigned by teachers, or by learning guides in self-taught courses. Coursework can encompass a wide range of activities, including practice, experimentation, research, and writing (e.g., dissertations, book reports, and essays). In the case of students at universities, high schools and middle schools, coursework is often graded and the scores are combined with those of separately assessed exams to determine overall course scores. In contrast to exams, students may be allotted several days or weeks to complete coursework, and are often allowed to use text books, notes, and the Internet for research.
In universities, students are usually required to perform coursework to broaden knowledge, enhance research skills, and demonstrate that they can discuss, reason and construct practical outcomes from learned theoretical knowledge. Sometimes coursework is performed by a group so that students can learn both how to work in groups and from each other.
Plagiarism and other problems
Plagiarism and copying can be problematic in graded coursework. Easily accessible websites have given students opportunities to copy ideas and even complete essays, and remain undetected despite measures to detect this. While coursework may give learners the chance to improve their grades, it also provides an opportunity to "cheat the system". Also, there is often controversy regarding the type and amount of help students can receive while performing coursework. In most learning institutions, plagiarism or unreasonable coursework help may lead to coursework disqualification, student expulsion, or both.
- In the UK
Coursework was removed from UK GCSE courses and replaced by "Controlled Assessment", much of which must be completed under exam conditions, without teacher assistance and with access to resources tightly controlled in order to reduce the possibility of cheating. However, this too will shortly be largely removed and replaced by mainly exam-based assessment as part of a general GCSE reform.