Campus Life

Accommodated Learning Centre invaluable during spring final exam period

Final exams can exert a great deal of stress on students and for those who take advantage of the supports offered by the University’s Accommodated Learning Centre (ALC), some of that stress is alleviated, allowing for students to achieve their best results.

The ALC provides equitable academic support to students, at both Lethbridge and Calgary campuses, with a wide range of documented disabilities. They offer a variety of services including learning plans, assistive technology, funding assistance and personalized supports such as tutors and strategists. With 556 students registered for the 2017/18 academic year, it’s apparent the demand for ALC services continues to grow.

“Final exam periods are some of our busiest times,” says Dawn Vickers, ALC manager. “During spring 2018, we supported 536 accommodated final exams written by 257 individual students. We fully utilized our 19 private testing areas and, because we were so busy, added two overflow rooms as well. And we coordinated all of this with just five office staff and 15 exam supervisors.”

Setting up accommodated exams is a tremendous undertaking, adds Vickers. Registered students first request an exam, based on the regular class schedule, using the ALC database. The Exam Coordinator subsequently schedules rooms and supervisors and books students based on their specific exam accommodations. These accommodations can include extra time, technology, distraction control or private space and breaks.

Once exams are received in the ALC from professors, they are packaged, sorted, converted to audio and digital formats and each room is prepared for students to write. The ALC also provides testing materials and other support devices like earplugs, timers and calculators. Students then check in and are assigned rooms where they are invigilated according to ALC processes and the student’s specific needs. Vickers says up to 125 exams are written each day.

“Then it’s all-hands-on-deck to sort, print, re-package, seal, log and notify each professor of completion,” she adds. “As many exams are booked late into the evening, office staff arrive early each morning to have exams ready by noon. All exams must be packaged according to our processes then signed for or delivered to ensure exam safety and integrity.”

Smooth operation of this process is dependent on many stakeholders. From students, who must book exams on time and with accuracy, to professors, who support ALC services by providing complete, accurate exams with sufficient time for conversion, packaging and preparation of testing areas, the process involves a multitude of steps.

“I have found our professors really do appreciate the time required to package exams so that complete and accurate exams arrive safely for marking,” says Vickers. “Our Teaching Centre and IT Department also ensure that Moodle exams and specialized technologies are ready to go for students to do their best work.”

Vickers says, looking ahead, the ALC is working on some exciting changes as it continues to support equity of access and opportunity for all students in the U of L’s diverse and growing campus community. More information on these changes will be announced in the fall.

“Thank you to everyone who supported the Accommodated Learning Centre in the past year, it’s evident we were able to assist a lot of students achieve their academic goals,” she says.