Students and faculty assess the benefits of online exams over in-person exams
The hybrid academic format of this semester posed a multitude of technical and logistical challenges for exam supervision. Unlike last semester, professors can now opt for in-person exams depending on the class format.
However, courses are not required to administer their exams in person, although the course offers in-person accommodations. This change was seen as a critical step towards returning to some sense of normalcy, but students and faculty continue to weigh the benefits of each format.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Lecturer in Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Mario Micheli, explained his approach to online testing over the past two semesters. Although he was reluctant to virtually monitor exams or force students to lock their browsers, he was keen to maintain academic integrity.
For her exams, Micheli gave students access to the internet, their grades and even a calculator, which was a radical departure from her pre-pandemic course. He explained that this adaptation went well in the online format.
âIt seemed to work quite well because it was timed – the students were so focused for such a short time that it would have been a waste of time to talk to others,â Micheli said.
He also noted that the grade distributions for the course did not appear to change despite this change.
âThe type of curve I got was very similar to the type of curve I would get before COVID. I made the testing a bit harder to compensate for the open-note environment, but it was just because I suggested that they use cheat sheets and that they also have access to MATLAB and calculators, “he said.” I made it not computationally more difficult, but conceptually, so that I can test students’ deeper understanding of the material. “
This semester, Micheli considered continuing the online exams as a precaution against the transmission of COVID-19, but he said The News-Letter that his classes will revert to in-person testing, primarily to alleviate any academic integrity issues.
Spanish-speaking senior lecturer Naiara MartÃnez-VÃ©lez explained that her classes will also be subject to in-person testing, but she explained that her exams will still be taken online.
âMy exams will take place on Blackboard but will be completed in class at our regular class time,â she said. âDue to the pandemic, it is better to avoid passing teachers’ papers to students and vice versa. “
MartÃnez-VÃ©lez detailed some of the benefits of continuing online testing.
âIt’s ecological; it facilitates the retention of student records for longer periods; it offers faster test results, âshe said. âIt provides flexibility for students who may need to be quarantined and cannot attend classes in person on the specific exam date. “
Like teachers, students have had to adapt to the online testing environment. Some, like junior Jeffrey Ding, have expressed reluctance to return to the in-person exams.
âIt’s a little strange, because we haven’t done in-person exams for so long,â he said.
Ding noted that for online exams, many teachers allowed access to grades and the Internet, which he said made studying easier and reduced stress. However, he pointed out that many of these exams were also much more difficult than the in-person exams and often took much longer to complete.
Other students, like senior Jayden Kunwar, were happy with the return to in-person exams and noted the benefits of in-person testing. Kunwar said he appreciates the value of devoting a certain place and time to important examinations.
“I am a firm believer in creating the right environments for certain events, and having a dedicated environment for taking the tests can promote academic success,” he said.
Sophomore Hallie Gallo took her first in-person exam earlier this week and said The News-Letter on his experience.
âIt was really weird coming back to the exams in person, and I was stressed out before the exam,â she said. “However, once I took the exam, I enjoyed it a lot more than the online exams.”
Sophomore Fred Miglo recently took two in-person exams – one in nervous systems and another in organic chemistry – and explained that his exams seemed less burdensome than when they were online.
âWhen we were online, [professors] assumed we were using notes, so they went into the questions deeper, âhe said.
Miglo hopes that some aspects of online learning, such as open exams, will continue after classes are fully in-person.