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What students think about the remote exam format

January 6, 2021

“Our entire education system has changed significantly. We now have to attend online lectures, where many of our professors' mic's cut in and out, their wifi goes down or even the format we’re learning on does not work. On average, I estimate that I lose out on at least 20 minutes of a three-hour-long lecture due to technical errors that are out of my control. Despite this not being a result of our professor’s actions, rather it is due to the fact that technology is not always reliable if the entire way we learn has changed, why wouldn’t exams change too? 

In my personal opinion exams should be changed to in-depth assignments. This is because of the increasingly difficult online learning environment. The remote environment requires students to have to study much harder due to the lack of engagement or quality of learning content that has resulted from learning in an online format. More study time requires more mental effort - mental effort that many students do not have due to the pandemic having a significant impact on student's mental health. If self-care and student mental health are a priority, exam formats need to change.

Additionally, more consideration should be given to students with disabilities. At the least, professors should offer assignments as opposed to exams to students with a registered disability with Student Accessibility Services. These students used to be able to write their exams in a quiet space, free of distractions. Now many of these students are being forced to write exams in areas that put them at a disadvantage, due to family members or roommates causing unintentional distractions. Imagine a student with ADHD trying to write a final exam while their younger sibling is crying in the background? Even a person without a disability would find that extremely difficult.

My question to the high executives at the university who are choosing not to take action on changing the exam format is...WHY? I believe the people who have the higher power to make these decisions have not been students for quite some time now and because of that, they are unable to fully consider the current students' positions from both an ethical point of view and a personal one as well. The people who truly should be capable of making these decisions are the students who are paying the same amount of tuition dollars for a significantly decreased quality of education. 

Students are not asking for “free marks” by requesting an exam format change. They are students who have been active members of Ontario Tech’s community, students with high GPA’s or students who are genuinely struggling and asking for a chance to be able to pass a course they’ve worked so hard all semester for. 

Cheating is a concern that has been communicated as a hindrance to changing the format. I believe that if the university keeps the format the way it is, it will result in students who cheat on exams and students who do not. If cheating was truly a huge concern, then the university should put everyone on the same playing field and allow them to access the same materials as the students that will inevitably cheat. The best way to do this is by offering exams through an in-depth assignment format. I encourage these executives to consider the university’s values that they are so heavily marketed and apply them to the students who so desperately need them in these uncertain times”.

- A concerned student who feels unheard 

“I think that the remote exam format has been an adjustment for sure. I had a horrible experience in one of my classes where proctoring software was used for the exam. Unfortunately midway through, I became unable to edit my exam. I could see the questions and the answers I had already submitted but couldn’t make changes to the exam. I had over an hour left. It was very stressful to be watched through Respondus as I went through this. There was no way I could get help without being flagged for “cheating” so I sat there and waited out the remaining time of the exam because I knew that there was an auto-submit function. I thought that if I waited out the time then at least the answers I did input would be submitted,  This was out of my control as well as the professors. After the exam, I found out that this happened to many of my classmates as well. I think the professor handled it very well, they ended up making the grading fair to account for any technical issues we had but this was still such a stressful experience. It made me realize that if a professor chooses to use proctoring software we need better protocols for if technical issues arise.” 

- A student requesting change