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Philosophy assignments: Cardiff vs. Oslo

16 September 2019

As I write this, I have just submitted my first of seven assignments to one of the three modules I am taking at the University of Oslo. It is incredibly strange to realise that, at this point last year, the autumn semester at Cardiff had yet to begin and here I am, already neck deep in assignments.

So what are assessments like in Oslo in comparison to Cardiff?

Formative Assessments

At Cardiff University, my modules thus far have offered to compose a formative plan, essay or draft that will precede the graded assessment. I always benefited from lecturer feedback prior to the graded assessment as often, I needed aid in focusing my ideas when the topics were broad. It is typically an optional assignment and there was not an added pressure to have a polished product.

In Oslo, however, these formative assessments are preliminaries in order to be qualified to take the final assessment. Attendance is a preliminary requirement for all of my modules and if I miss more than three classes without a valid documentation as to why, I can be disqualified from doing the final exam.

Only two of my modules require a formative assessment, one of which was a commentary on an ethical article published this year. It was quite difficult to write five-hundred words but it was quite different to formative assessments in Cardiff as, instead of focusing on a singular author for the module, the module is a cluster of perspectives and the lecturer chose an article published this year for me to do a commentary on.

No pressure, huh?

Oral Presentations

I have never had oral presentations and group work at Cardiff University – in fact, I actively avoided any module that had it due to my anxiety. However, one of my modules’ formative assessments is to do a group oral presentation and report. It took some consideration but I eventually decided that my interest in the subject was worth combating my anxiety over presentations.

Essays and Exams

The biggest difference between the way assessments are orchestrated between Cardiff University is the way that exams and essays are structured here. First of all, all assessments are done by computer in Oslo – including exams. This is a huge advantage to all, including people with long-term health conditions like me that need computer access. Exams can be taken at home or on campus and exam lengths are usually more than two hours long to ensure that all students can achieve the best possible outcome.

Thankfully, I do not have any exams here in Oslo. All of my modules’ final assessments consist of essays. Essays are submitted similarly to Cardiff, with Turn It In-like systems called Canvas and Inspera. These assessments are set at the beginning of the semester and I shall explain why:

The final assessment of one module is a portfolio of three essays, all to be submitted together. Rather than submit them at separate dates as Cardiff does, Oslo sets the assignments early so that essays are began early and maximises private tutoring from lecturers on drafts.

Unlike the word counts Cardiff lecturers set, assessments here are set by page limit and character suggestion. My other two of my modules require a ten-page essay with approximately 2,300 characters per page (I would not recommend converting that to word count). What is unique about these two essays is also that I can pick a topic of my choosing, as long as it is relevant to the module which means that the task can be less daunting.

I believe I would have cried internally if I was set ten-page essays just a couple weeks before a deadline so I am thankful that Oslo give students a great quantity of time to complete assignments.

I began studying in August and my assessments are due at the end of November which effectively gives me just under three months to complete everything whilst completing prospective preparatory dissertation work for Cardiff for which I will discuss soon!