Unisa has confirmed that a number of its exams have been postponed due to problems with its online examination system.
Examinations are being conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Last week, Unisa students reported that they were unable to submit exams using the university’s online system.
One student told MyBroadband that they were presented with a 503 Server Error, which usually refers to a web server being too busy to handle the user’s request.
Another student told the City Press that the system displays an error message which said it could not support the number of students trying to submit their exam scripts and download the question papers simultaneously.
This resulted in many students being unable to submit exam scripts for certain courses, as there was no other way for these students to submit their work.
Unisa told MyBroadband that the examinations for “a few modules” had to be rescheduled due to the capacity issues experienced by the university’s servers.
“The examinations for few modules were postponed,” the university said.
“The rescheduling of these modules to later dates (which will still fall within the current examination period) was essentially to improve the system’s performance.”
“SMSs were sent out to inform affected students of changes made to the timetable and they are aware of their new examination dates,” Unisa added.
Unisa stated that two examination days (27 and 28 May) were affected, with a number of modules being rescheduled to the consecutive Saturdays (30 May, 6 June, and 13 June).
Traffic volumes cause strain
Unisa said that while it has experience processing a large number of exams, these are usually spread out over a larger period of time.
“It should be appreciated that during the first semester more than 2.9 million formative assessments were processed on one of our platforms and an additional 11 million on another,” Unisa said.
“The university has experience of processing such huge numbers without any challenges because they are usually spread over a period of time.”
“For summative online assessments, the period required to complete the assessments is much shorter and, therefore, the system is expected to experience increased strain as a result of the high traffic and volumes,” it added.
The university added that it was working tirelessly to resolve all the problems concerning its online systems.
“The capacity of the systems has been expanded, large volume modules have been rescheduled to off-peak periods, and alternative systems have been developed to accommodate large files and high volumes,” Unisa said.
“Timely interventions made by the university ensured that the subsequent exams proceeded with minimum disruptions.”
It added that these changes should allow it to continue with its online examinations as planned.
Unisa students have been provided with guides that clearly outline the online submission process and, for large modules, they have been given an alternative method of submitting their files.