Dear students

As you know, we’ll be putting many assessment tasks online in the examination period at the end of this semester. I’m sending you a set of FAQs to help explain some of the issues.

When is the examination period at the end of this semester?

We recognize that in this semester the learning process has been disrupted, and that some students require more time to prepare themselves for exams. We’ve therefore extended the examination period from Saturday 7 December 2019 to Friday 10 January 2020.

Will all courses switch to online assessment?

No. Some courses will not change because they do not have exams at the end of this semester. Others will not switch to online assessment because of professional registration requirements.

Does online assessment mean there will be an open-book exam?

Yes, unless specified by the course examiner(s), courses using online assessment will have open-book exams.

What new forms of online assessment has HKU created?

We have created the Online Exam (OLEX) system, which we will use solely for holding online exams. OLEX enables teachers to upload an exam paper and make it accessible to students enrolled in their course at a scheduled exam timeslot. It provides a platform for students to upload their answer papers and teachers to receive them in a WORD file (unless the course examiner gives special permission to use a PDF or ZIP file). Students are reminded to watch out for the exam end time as the system will not remind them. Please note that some teachers will continue to use Moodle for assessment and online examination purposes and will not use OLEX.

Will students need to register in advance with OLEX?

Yes. If your course requires you to use OLEX for online examination, you will receive an email on Wednesday 4 December 2019 asking you to register. Please register on the OLEX system by 14:00 on Thursday 5 December 2019.

How will students access an online examination?

After registration, students will be able to log into an online examination at Online access will open ten minutes before the scheduled exam timeslot.

Can students familiarize themselves with OLEX ahead of their online examination?

Yes. We have created a drill student website for OLEX: Students may use this website to familiarize themselves with OLEX before the date of their online examination.

Will all students be able to access our online examinations?

Yes. For students currently resident in Mainland China, we have secured a leased line that will connect directly to an HKU server for online exams.

How will we make it clear to students that they must respect standard norms of academic integrity?

We have adopted an academic integrity statement that students will have to agree to before being able to access an online exam. This is the statement (if you do not fully understand the concept of plagiarism, please visit this webpage –

  • I acknowledge that University examinations require all students to respect the highest standards of academic integrity. For the examination I am about to take, I make the following pledge:
    1. All the work will be my own, and I will not plagiarize from any source;
    2. I will not obtain or seek to obtain an unfair advantage by communicating or attempting to communicate with any other person during the examination; neither will I give or attempt to give assistance to another student taking the examination;
    3. For an examination which permits the use of calculators, I will use only an approved model as announced by the Examinations Secretary, unless otherwise prescribed by the examiner(s);
    4. I will stop writing immediately at the designated end time of the examination, and will make no modification to my script thereafter.
  • I understand that students who are suspected of violating this pledge are liable to be referred to the Disciplinary Committee, and may be subject to disciplinary action such as suspension of studies or expulsion from the University.

How will students answer the exam questions?

For most courses, students will be required to answer the exam questions in a single Microsoft Word file. However, for some courses students will be able to answer the exam questions by hand with the permission of the course examiner. At the end of the exam, these students will be given time to consolidate all their work into a single PDF or zip file. All students will be asked to upload a single file to OLEX.

Will students be able to ask questions about the exam paper in the first 30 minutes of the exam?

No, this will not be possible.

How will we ensure that students do not take longer than the allocated time for an exam?

The academic integrity statement makes it clear that when the end of the exam timeslot comes, they must stop – exactly as in a proctored exam. After the end of the exam, students must make no substantive changes to their file. In cases of doubt, we will check the file history.

How long will students have to upload their exam answers?

We will allow students a 30-minute grace period to upload their exam answers in a single file to OLEX. A receipt will be sent to each student’s registered email address. This time cannot be used to continue taking the exam. Again, in cases of doubt we will check the file history.

How can we ensure the security of exam papers and scripts?

All exam papers and scripts will be within OLEX, a system hosted at HKU. We are confident that this will generate the level of security we require.

If students fear their Internet connection will not be good, what can they do?

If you worry about your Internet connection, you can voluntarily capture (for instance by video or screen capture) everything you do from the start of the exam to the finish. Then you will have a full record of any problems encountered. In cases of real difficulty, we may invite you to submit to us the record you have made.

Will HKU provide support for students in navigating the online exam system?

Yes, later this week we will roll out an FAQs website. There is also a drill student website for OLEX:

Will teachers know in advance which students have opted for letter grade and pass/fail?

Yes, it’s standard practice throughout academia for instructors to know in full the parameters within which they’re grading. Teachers know whether they’re grading a letter-grade or pass/fail course, so the same practice will apply to students within a course.

Will teachers grade to a curve with or without the pass/fail students?

It’s HKU policy not to grade to a curve. We use standards-based assessment, not norm-referenced.

Can students choose pass/fail for courses in the UG5?

Yes. However, the Common Core Special Proviso ( only comes into play with six graded courses.

What impact will pass/fail courses have on GPA?

None. It’s already the case that students bring pass/fail courses onto their transcripts, for instance through academic exchange. Because of the special assessment arrangements adopted this semester, some students may have a few more pass/fail courses than usual. We will still do what we always do – calculate GPA on the basis of all graded courses.

What impact will pass/fail courses have on SGPA?

One impact is worth highlighting. If a student opts for pass/fail for all courses this semester, there will be no SGPA. It’s worth mentioning that such a student may be placed at a disadvantage for, say, student exchange. SGPA is a key factor in allocating exchange places.

If a student fails a pass/fail course and retakes it, will the retake have to be pass/fail as well?

Yes, the original decision taken by the student will stand for the retaken course.

If a supplementary exam is set for a course offered this semester, will the assessment be online?

Yes, the same conditions will apply to a supplementary exam as to the original exam.

When is the SETL deadline?

The SETL deadline is December 30, 2019.

As ever, please drop me a line with queries.

Best wishes, Ian

Professor Ian Holliday
Vice-President (Teaching and Learning)

December 2, 2019