Category Archives: Assessment Skills

Assessment Due Dates

With due dates either already past or looming, it’s time to look at the importance of meeting submission deadlines. 

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Without fail the three most common reasons for students losing valuable marks in assessments are:

  • handing in assessments late
  • not reading or following the assessment brief
  • poor referencing 

By ignoring just one of these simple, standard requirements you are guaranteeing yourself a loss of at the very least 20% of your total mark. There are very few, if any, students who can afford to take such a knock when it comes to their grades.

PicMonkey Collage

ASSESSMENT DUE DATES

One of the quickest ways you can kiss between 20% and 100% of your mark good-bye is by handing in an assessment late.

What Does the Student Rulebook Say?

Section 5.8.v – Late Submissions:

Students must hand in or submit projects / assignments during their allocated class time; in the required format specified by the lecturer.

Penalties for late submissions are applied as follows – if a student submits his / her assignment:

  • immediately after the allocated deadline = minus 20%
  • one day late = minus 50%
  • two days late or more = 0%

These penalties are applied across all subjects and are not negotiable. If a student is absent on the date that the assignment is due, a valid medical certificate covering illness during the day of hand-in or the day/s directly after is required in order for the student not be penalised. If a valid and legitimate medical certificate is not presented and affixed to the project / assignment the penalties apply. 

No documentation from a medical institution without an official diagnosis signed by the doctor will be accepted. In other words, a letter simply stating that a student visited the clinic is not a valid medical certificate. In any other situation, valid official documentation is required.

No telephonic conversation will be entered into, nor will an e-mail be accepted. 

What’s Your Excuse?

Believe me when I tell you, your lecturer has heard it all before but for argument’s sake let’s take a look at the most common excuses for handing in an assessment late:

I needed more time

If this is your “go to” excuse then you may need to reassess your time management skills. You can find tips and strategies to help you better manage your time here.

If time management isn’t the issue then perhaps a lack of class attendance may be the reason for you running short of time on assessments; the BMH Student Rulebook (2017, p. 26) clearly states that:

Students will be informed in class of assessment briefs and dates at least two weeks in advance…It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they are fully informed of all assessments prior to the actual assessment date.

If you are not attending classes regularly, you are at risk of receiving assessment briefs late, or even worse, not at all.

I need extra time because *insert credible reason here*

If for some or other legitimate reason you are unable to submit your assessment on the specified due date you may apply for an extension. However be very sure to read the rules for this special application carefully:

Section 5.8.iv – Applying for an Extension:

Students requesting an extension on an assignment due date are required to do so in writing at least ten (10) working days before the due date, by completing an Extension Request Form available from the Student Information Desk / Centre; after which it will be submitted to the relevant Academic Manager and lecturer. If the request is granted, the Extension Request Form will be signed off by the relevant lecturer and Academic Manager and will be placed in the student’s record file. The student will be notified telephonically (sms) and / or in writing, whether an extension has been granted or not. 

My USB broke / isn’t working

Always save your assessment to a spare / back up USB or drive. Technology fails all the time and this won’t be accepted as an excuse for submitting an assessment late.

The printer broke / ran out of ink / paper OR The queue  for the printer in the library was long.

Don’t leave the printing of your assessment to the last minute meaning you have no time to arrange a back up plan or find an alternative printer. Technology fails all the time and this won’t be accepted as an excuse for submitting an assessment late.

My taxi / bus / lift was running late.

On the day of an assessment due date ensure that you arrive well in advance of the hand-in time. Transportation issues will not be accepted as an excuse for submitting an assessment late. 

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Reference:

Boston Media House. (2017). Student Rulebook, 2017. Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

Summative Results: Dealing with Expectations & Disappointment

Semester A, Summative results are due for release shortly. For some the stress & anxiety is coming to an end, whilst for others it is just beginning. 

dying-to-know

The stress and anxiety you feel leading up to results day has a lot to do with your own expectations, but also those of your family and / or account payer. There are a variety of options available to you in terms of dealing with your and other’s expectations, as well as with the disappoint of possibly not having done as well as you had hoped:

Dealing with assessment result pressure and expectations

Assessment result anxiety is a very real thing and can be experienced during the wait for results or even once you’ve received them. Feelings you may experience include:

  • happiness
  • jubilation
  • disappointment
  • depression
  • guilt
  • confusion
  • anger
  • illness
  • numbness

Expectations, both real and imagined, internal and external, need to be managed in order to minimize their harmful, demotivating effects and maximize their energizing, positive effects. Ways of dealing with pressure and expectations, in relation to assessment results, include:

  • Talking to someone who is not directly impacted by or involved in the situation, such as a friend or the BMH counsellor.
  • Talking to the person who is setting the expectations, and explaining that the added pressure is not helping.
  • Re-assessing your own expectations – are they realistic, are they attainable, are they helping or hindering you?
  • Writing down your feelings, drawing, singing, dancing – these are all cathartic ways of expressing and excising what you are feeling.
  • Avoid using alcohol and / or drugs as a coping mechanism, the problems and stress will still be there once you sober up.

It is also useful to take a step back and put things into perspective:

  • Poor assessment results are not the be-all and end-all of life as you may know it – unless you allow them to, they cannot stop you from achieving your long term goals.
  • Poor assessment results are not a reflection of your worth – they are a snapshot of a moment in time in your life.
  • Ask yourself “Will this matter in five years from now?” – if the answer is “yes” now is the ideal time to make a change and put a plan into action; if the answer is “no” then let it go.

will-it-matter

Your options going forward

Depending on your assessment results, you have a number of options going forward:

a) Apply for a Supplementary

Second chances are a wonderful thing BUT before you get too excited and rush off to collect a Supplementary Assessment Breif, read the fine print and make sure you meet the requirements for a supp:

  • Did you get 30% or more for your first summative assessment attempt?

OR

  • Were you legitimately ill or absent for the summative assessment and do you have a valid medical certificate to back this up?
  • The 2017 supplementary fee for summative assessments is R350.00

For more information on supplementary assessments please consult your 2017 BMH Student Rulebook or click here.

b) Submit an Appeal

You have the right to appeal an assessment outcome.  All summative assessments are returned to students for the purpose of advancing learning and verification of grades awarded (excluding exit-point, exit-level subject summative assessments). It is thus your responsibility to check your assessment and grade awarded and inform your Branch Manager if there are any discrepancies.

You have five (5) working days, from the day that results are published to submit an appeal for a specific assessment event. Appeals submitted after the 5 day window will not be taken under consideration.

For more information on the procedure to follow should you with to appeal an assessment result please consult your 2017 BMH Student Rulebook or click here.

c) Set Up a Student-Lecturer Meeting

If after you have received feedback on the summative assessment and you are still unclear of where you went wrong or lost marks, consider setting up a student-lecturer meeting. All BMH lecturers have consultation hours during which they are available to meet with students.

For tips on how to prepare for and get the most from a student-lecturer meeting click here.

d) Schedule a Session with BMHs Counsellor

Sometimes you just need someone to talk to and be there for you, which is why BMH offers free counselling to all its registered students. You may be dealing with problems (personal and / or academic) which are bothering you and preventing you from achieving your goals, or you may just need an objective person to share your concerns with. For more information on how to go about scheduling a session with BMH’s Counsellor please click here.


References: 

Reach Out.com (2015). Dealing with Exam Results. Retrieved from:  http://au.reachout.com/dealing-with-exam-results. [Accessed: 24 June 2016].

How’s Your Brain Doing?

With the Summative Assessment period upon us you may be interested to know that your brain needs some TLC in order to help get you through the next few weeks.

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This may come as a shock to many but your brain plays a very important role in how productive and successful you are when studying and working on assignments. The internal environment of your brain plays a vital role in learning; meaning that you can study all day and all night but if you don’t look after your brain, it will all be for nothing.

A healthy brain can lead to improved:

  • concentration
  • memory and retention
  • mental performance

 

What your brain needs to survive and thrive are often the exact same things you tend to neglect when preparing for exams or working flat out on a deadline.

1. FOOD

The brain is made up of:

  • fat
  • water
  • neurons – they process and transmit information

To fuel the learning functions of your neurons, you need to feed your brain:

  • good fats
  • protein
  • complex carbohydrates
  • micro-nutrients
  • water

By nourishing your brain with the correct food and adequate water, you are providing your neurons with a healthy environment in which to function. However, by feeding your brain the incorrect foods and dehydrating it you are in fact starving your neurons of the energy they need to function, grow and regenerate. The next time you feel foggy, tired or unable to concentrate take a moment to think about what you have (or haven’t) eaten in the past few hours…

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Good Fats:

Your brain is largely made up of fatty membranes, making up approximately 60% of solid brain matter. As such, fats provide your brain with energy, but we’re talking good fats here namely, Omega 3 and 6 oils which can be derived from:

  • Fatty fish, such as: sardines, tuna, pilchards and salmon
  • Nuts, such as: walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia
  • Seeds, such as: sunflower seeds, flax seeds
  • Dark leafy greens, such as: spinach, kale, broccoli

Bad fats are literally like sludge in the brain’s circulatory system; they effect the flow of oxygen to the brain, as well as the flow of toxins and waste out of the brain.

Bad fats include:

  • Processed foods, such as: cakes, biscuits, crisps, processed meats (e.g. polony) and processed cheese (e.g. cheese slices)
  • Deep fried foods, such as: chicken (e.g. KFC), chips etc.

Protein:

Protein provides your brain with amino acids, the building block for neurons. Good proteins include:

  • Lean meat – baked not fried (e.g. pork and ostrich)
  • Fish – baked not fried (e.g. salmon, tuna, pilchards)
  • Yoghurt – plain, unsweetened and not flavoured
  • Nuts – raw not roasted or flavoured
  • Eggs – poached or boiled not fried

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Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates (including sugar) are an energy source for your brain. However, excessive consumption of sugar results in bursts of energy, followed by slumps including fidgeting, headaches, lack of concentration and drowsiness. The key is to provide your brain with the right type of carbohydrates i.e. good / complex carbohydrates, such as:

  • Brown rice
  • Wholewheat bread
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Oats

You should avoid consuming bad / simple carbohydrates, such as:

  • Refined sugar (white sugar)
  • White bread
  • White pasta
  • White rice

Micro-nutrients:

Micro-nutrients are required in small amounts but are essential to a healthy brain; they include:

  • Vitamin B – for focus and concentration
  • Zinc – for the formation of memories
  • Calcium – to help cleanse the brain of toxins and waste

Micro-nutrients can be found in:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Plain milk
  • Plain yoghurt

You should avoid consuming anything that includes artificial flavourants or colouring.

Water:

Dehydration results in:

  • Reduced cognitive abilities
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • and may even damage your brain

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2. SLEEP

We spend a 1/3 of our lives sleeping, it is crucial to our health and mental well being. During sleep your brain is nearly as active as it is when you are awake – from the day you are born to the day you die, your brain is active and working. So what is it so busy doing?

During sleep the brain processes complex stimuli and information is has received during the waking hours; it uses this information to make decisions when you are awake.

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While you are sleeping your brain forms and saves new memories and incorporates them with old memories, this is why sleep is so important for learning. By sleeping before you study, you are helping the brain prepare for the intake of new information. By sleeping after you have studied, you are helping the brain save the new information. If you deprive your brain of sleep, your ability to learn new information drops by 40%.

Sleep is also known to boost creativity – the mind in its unconscious, “resting” state makes new connections that it may not be able to make during its waking state.

Sleep gives the brain a chance to do housekeeping – while you are asleep the brain flushes out toxins that build up when you are awake. It also allows the brain to convert short-term memories into long term memories .

Until you reach your early to mid-20s you need approximately 9 hours of sleep per night in order to function optimally the next day. A tired person’s brain works harder and accomplishes less thus adding to the argument that “pulling an all-nighter” is in fact a waste of time and sleep.

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3. EXERCISE

Physical activity boosts blood and oxygen flow through the brain resulting in your neurons being stimulated and thus able to connect with one another better. Exercise is like fertilizer for the brain, in that improved blood and oxygen flow results in improved:

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Accuracy
  • Information processing
  • LEARNINGdownload

In addition to this, exercise improves your mood and quality of sleep; it also reduces stress and anxiety – all problems that cause or contribute to learning and concentration problems.

Aim for approximately one hour of moderate intensity exercise twice per week, for example: brisk walking or swimming

 

So, what’s the moral of the story?

Eat right. Get enough sleep. Get some exercise.

Look after your brain.

homer


References:

Mastin, L. (2013). Why do we sleep? Memory Processing and Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.howsleepworks.com/why_memory.html . [Accessed: 22 September 2015].

Norman, P. (2014). Feeding the Brain for Academic Success: How Nutrition and Hydration Boost Learning. Retrieved from: http://teacherweb.com/NY/NorthRose-WolcottMiddleSchool/HealthEducation/Academics-and-Nutrition-Article-Assignment.doc . [Accessed: 22 September 2015].

Take a Break

With Summative Assessment season upon us, it’s important to remember to  keep things balanced and to take regular breaks.

keyboard-break

It may sound counter-intuitive when you have submission dates piling up and exams to study for, but studies show that when we work / study for hours on end on the same task, with no breaks, our brain slowly starts to switch off  and no longer registers what we are doing. Taking regular breaks from studying, or working on an assignment, allows your mind to refocus and improves attention. The trick however, lies in selecting the correct type of activity for your study / work break so that you return to your task focused and refreshed.

How Long Should You Be Studying / Working For?

The general consensus appears to be:

  • Study / work for 50 – 90 minutes with a 10 minute break in between sessions.

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  • And to take a slightly longer break after every 2 to 3 sessions.

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“Good” Study / Work Breaks

Different activities work for different people. The point is to decide on an activity that will help refresh you and that makes the transition back to work / studying easy.  Also, a “good” break is one that isn’t able to morph into a procrastination tactic.

The simplest way to manage your breaks (and even your study / work sessions) is by setting a timer – when the timer goes, the break is over.

Good, reinvigorating breaks include:

  • Moving away from the screen / book / desk – sitting in the same position for hours on end is no good for you, especially if you are hunched up with tension and anxious about what you are working on. Get up and stretch, move around, get your blood flowing and your eyes moving and focusing on different things. Even better, go for a 10 minute walk outside – the fresh air will help clear your mind and re-energize you for your next session.
  • Chitter-chatter – you’ve been “in the zone” for the past 50 – 90 minutes, phone a friend or find someone to have a quick (emphasis on “quick“) chat with. It will help you change your focus and feel connected again.
  • Dance, draw, doodle – do something creative and fun for 10 minutes. Dancing can boost your energy and lift your mood. Colouring in (yes, with crayons or pencils) is a wonderfully relaxing way to clear your mind and get your focus back.
  • Eat – whether it’s a quick snack (during your 10 minute break) or a light lunch (during your 30 minute break), the low efficiency activity of putting together a light and healthy snack or meal not only allows your mind to focus on something else, but refuels your body and improves your mindset.

What Not to Do

Just like the right type of break can energize you, the wrong type of break can result in unplanned detours and distractions that make it hard to get back to work and full focus.

Things to avoid include:

  • TV / Computer Games / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat / WhatsApp / E-mail – Rule of thumb: if it has a screen, avoid it. None of these activities boost productivity or focus; what they do is leave you feeling more tired, wound up and distracted than before. Unless you are done studying or working for the day, or self-discipline is your secret super power, don’t use any of these as your downtime break activity.
  • Catch some Zzzzz’s – Taking a nap can actually be counter-productive to your work / study schedule; more often than not it leaves you feeling more tired and less inclined to want to get back to work. Instead, aim for a solid 8 – 9 hours uninterrupted sleep a night and if you absolutely have to take a nap during the day, ensure that it is not longer than 20 minutes.
  • Quick fix – A take-away pizza (junk food) and super sized energy drink (caffeine) may make for a quick meal break and energy boost, but that is exactly what they are…quick. Neither offer sustained energy or benefit, instead resulting in your blood sugar spiking and then crashing, leaving you feeling flat and tired.

References:

How to Take a Study Break. (2015).  Retrieved from: https://www.brainscape.com/blog/2011/06/study-break/ [Accessed on: 14 October 2016].

Hoyt, E. (2016). Energizing Study Break Ideas & What to Avoid. Retrieved from: http://www.fastweb.com/student-life/articles/energizing-study-break-ideas-what-to-avoid [Accessed on: 14 October 2016].

Nauert, R. (2011). Taking Breaks Found to Improve Attention. Retrieved from: https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/09/taking-breaks-found-to-improve-attention/23329.html [Accessed on: 14 October 2016].

You’ve Been Taking Breaks All Wrong. Here’s How To Do It Right. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/youve-been-taking-breaks-_n_4453448.html [Accessed on: 14 October 2016].

 

Referencing and Plagiarism

Whether you like it or not referencing is an essential academic skill that you not only need to learn, but to master. Poor referencing and plagiarism are a sure way of losing valuable marks.

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By now you should be aware of what referencing is, why it is important, how to reference; and that Boston Media House makes use of the Harvard Referencing System.

The purpose of this post is not to teach you how to reference correctly, you have already been taught that in your Academic Literacy 1 class, but rather to highlight where students go wrong when referencing and to provide you with tips on how to make referencing a little easier.

Where Did I Go Wrong?

a) Not referencing in-text 

This refers to when you quote, summarise, paraphrase or re-word another persons idea/s within your assignment.

When citing in-text, you need to provide the:

1) author or editor’s surname/s,

2) year of publication, and

3) page number/s of where you have drawn the information from.

For Example:

Smith (2012, p. 88) states that ".....quotation.....".

or

When looking at the first generation,"..........quotation........." (Smith, 2012, p. 88).

The only time you need not include the page number/s is when you paraphrase or summarise an entire piece of work.

For Example:

Smith (2012) asserts that change through the generations is continuous and inevitable.

By not acknowledging the original source or author of an idea which you have included in your assignment you are committing plagiarism; an offense Boston Media House takes extremely seriously:

“…Any student who is found to have plagiarised will be penalised and may in addition face disciplinary action, which may include receiving 0% for the assessment, a warning letter and/or a disciplinary hearing, which could result in their expulsion from the Institution. (Boston Media House, 2017, p. 27)

Do not assume that your lecturer will not notice if you fail to reference an idea or quote within your assignment, because chances are someone else in your class has used the exact same idea or quote and you will be caught out and you will be penalised for plagiarising.

b) Not checking that ALL in-text references are linked to a corresponding reference in your reference list (and vice versa)

For EVERY in-text reference you have made within your assignment there MUST be a corresponding reference in your reference list.

For Example:

In-text reference –

Smith (2012, p. 88) states that ".....quotation.....".

Corresponding reference in your reference list –

Smith, W. (2012). The Generation Gap: Are we really so different?, London: Routledge.

When grading you on the technical aspects of your assignment if a lecturer picks up that you have included references in your reference list that are not cited in your assignment OR you’ve cited references in your assignment but have provided no reference in your reference list, you will be penalised.

If you do not know what is being referred to by the “technical aspects” of an assignment, please go read: Understanding an Assessment Brief.

c) Not realising that you have plagiarised

ANY TIME you:

  • directly quote
  • summarise
  • paraphrase
  • re-word
  • refer to
  • copy

another person’s work / ideas / thoughts / creations / writing / inventions / theory / compositions / opinions / pictures / designs / artwork etc. you MUST acknowledge them as the original source.

When in doubt, ask yourself: “Is this 100% my own, original thought / idea / composition?” If there is any doubt that it is not 100% yours: go back, find the source of your inspiration / idea / thought and reference them.

Unfortunately for you “I didn’t know I was plagiarising” is not an accepted excuse at Boston Media House and you will end up being penalised.

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Tips for Referencing 

  • When researching your assignment, highlight any direct quotes or ideas you plan on using in your assignment – this will assist you when the time comes to start drafting your response, as well as your reference list. 
  • Get into the habit of writing down the referencing information and page number/s of the source immediately, whilst you are using it. If you wait to sift through all your readings or sources once you’ve completed your assignment you a) may not be able to remember which source it was you used and, b) you may not be able to go back and check on the details.
  • Don’t rush when creating your reference list. Give yourself enough time to ensure that you are following the correct Harvard Referencing format; and that for every in-text reference you have a corresponding reference in your reference list.

References:

Boston Media House. (2017).  Student Rulebook, 2017.  Johannesburg, South Africa.

Palgrave Study Skills. (2015). Referencing and Avoiding Plagiarism. Retrieved from: http://www.palgrave.com/studentstudyskills/page/referencing-and-avoiding-plagiarism/. [Accessed: 21 August 2015].

University of Leicester: Student Learning Development. (2015). Ten Tips for Good Referencing. Retrieved from: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/resources/writing/harvard/content/2.23-ten-tips-for-good-referencing. [Accessed: 21 August 2015].

 

Assessment Due Dates

With due dates either already past or looming, it’s time to look at the importance of meeting submission deadlines. 

tumblr_mqr9fkBrdz1s4baulo1_500

Without fail the three most common reasons for students losing valuable marks in assessments are:

  • handing in assessments late
  • not reading or following the assessment brief
  • poor referencing 

By ignoring just one of these simple, standard requirements you are guaranteeing yourself a loss of at the very least 20% of your total mark. There are very few, if any, students who can afford to take such a knock when it comes to their grades.

PicMonkey Collage

ASSESSMENT DUE DATES

One of the quickest ways you can kiss between 20% and 100% of your mark good-bye is by handing in an assessment late.

What Does the Student Rulebook Say?

Section 5.8.v – Late Submissions:

Students must hand in or submit projects / assignments during their allocated class time; in the required format specified by the lecturer.

Penalties for late submissions are applied as follows – if a student submits his / her assignment:

  • immediately after the allocated deadline = minus 20%
  • one day late = minus 50%
  • two days late or more = 0%

These penalties are applied across all subjects and are not negotiable. If a student is absent on the date that the assignment is due, a valid medical certificate covering illness during the day of hand-in or the day/s directly after is required in order for the student not be penalised. If a valid and legitimate medical certificate is not presented and affixed to the project / assignment the penalties apply. 

No documentation from a medical institution without an official diagnosis signed by the doctor will be accepted. In other words, a letter simply stating that a student visited the clinic is not a valid medical certificate. In any other situation, valid official documentation is required.

No telephonic conversation will be entered into, nor will an e-mail be accepted. 

What’s Your Excuse?

Believe me when I tell you, your lecturer has heard it all before but for argument’s sake let’s take a look at the most common excuses for handing in an assessment late:

I needed more time

If this is your “go to” excuse then you may need to reassess your time management skills. You can find tips and strategies to help you better manage your time here.

If time management isn’t the issue then perhaps a lack of class attendance may be the reason for you running short of time on assessments; the BMH Student Rulebook (2017, p. 26) clearly states that:

Students will be informed in class of assessment briefs and dates at least two weeks in advance…It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they are fully informed of all assessments prior to the actual assessment date.

If you are not attending classes regularly, you are at risk of receiving assessment briefs late, or even worse, not at all.

I need extra time because *insert credible reason here*

If for some or other legitimate reason you are unable to submit your assessment on the specified due date you may apply for an extension. However be very sure to read the rules for this special application carefully:

Section 5.8.iv – Applying for an Extension:

Students requesting an extension on an assignment due date are required to do so in writing at least ten (10) working days before the due date, by completing an Extension Request Form available from the Student Information Desk / Centre; after which it will be submitted to the relevant Academic Manager and lecturer. If the request is granted, the Extension Request Form will be signed off by the relevant lecturer and Academic Manager and will be placed in the student’s record file. The student will be notified telephonically (sms) and / or in writing, whether an extension has been granted or not. 

My USB broke / isn’t working

Always save your assessment to a spare / back up USB or drive. Technology fails all the time and this won’t be accepted as an excuse for submitting an assessment late.

The printer broke / ran out of ink / paper OR The queue  for the printer in the library was long.

Don’t leave the printing of your assessment to the last minute meaning you have no time to arrange a back up plan or find an alternative printer. Technology fails all the time and this won’t be accepted as an excuse for submitting an assessment late.

My taxi / bus / lift was running late.

On the day of an assessment due date ensure that you arrive well in advance of the hand-in time. Transportation issues will not be accepted as an excuse for submitting an assessment late. 

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Reference:

Boston Media House. (2017). Student Rulebook, 2017. Johannesburg, South Africa.