Coursework is the name for work carried out by students at university or middle/high school that contributes towards their overall grade, but which is assessed separately from their final exams. Coursework can, for example, take the form of experimental work, or may involve research in the sciences. It can comprise dissertations, book reports or essays submitted for arts subjects. Unlike exams, students may have a number of days or weeks to complete the assignment, and often are allowed to use text books, notes, and the internet for research.
In universities, coursework is often one of many different modes of assessment. Students are required to produce coursework in order to broaden knowledge and enhance research skills, and to demonstrate that they can discuss, reason and construct practical outcomes from the theoretical knowledge learned during their course. Sometimes coursework is tackled by a group, so students may learn both how to work in groups and from each other. But plagiarism and copying present major issues to confront.
There has been some controversy regarding the help students can receive whilst doing their coursework, abuse of which may lead to the disqualification of students at different levels. In the UK, the Joint Council for Qualifications can disqualify plagiarism. Easily accessible websites have given people the opportunity to "lift" ideas and even complete essays, despite the greater protective measures employed to detect this. While coursework may give learners the chance to improve their grades, it also provides an opportunity to "cheat the system". This is one of the reasons that coursework in the UK is gradually being removed from the GCSE course and replaced by a system where all of the grade comes from either a series of modular assessments over the course of the course and/or a "final exam". In other situations, coursework has been designed to be performed under exam conditions over a period of time, which lowers the possibility of cheating. In the majority of subjects at GCSE, coursework has been replaced by "Controlled Assessment", where students must complete coursework under exam conditions. The rules of controlled assessments are as follows:
- Must be completed under timed exam conditions
- During planning time teachers may not provide feedback to any work produced
- During planning time students may not draft their work, only notes and research can be carried out.
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