Finals in the Age of a Pandemic

In a time of distress, it has been a challenge for Saint Peter’s University students to transition from a face-to-face classroom setting to an online one. Now with the semester coming to a close soon, it is time for professors to start finalizing their exam plans.

Attila Medl, a Mathematics professor, is giving a take-home final. He plans on making the exam harder since it will be considered open-book.

Medl thinks that a take-home exam makes the most sense during this time.

“I don’t think that a real-time exam given online is effective. Students can be in a noisy environment, they can be nervous in this unusual setup, or network issues can come up,” he said. “I prefer a take-home exam. Cheating and group work can be an issue, but I plan to give out several versions of the test with slightly different problems, which will make cheating more difficult,”

But Medl is not the only professor preparing for final exam alternatives. James Adler, a fine arts professor, is doing what Medl feared, a “real-time exam.” .

“For my Intro to Music class, students will access the exam on the day and time as though it were given “live” in class. As on earlier exams, during this terrible pandemic, students copy the exam and input their answers into a Word document or PDF. There is a time limitation on the exam and it is essentially an “open notes” exam,” Adler stated.

Adler, who also teaches a Live Musical Art class for the Honors Program, plans on changing the final format for his students in that class.

“For my Live Musical Art Honors Class, instead of giving a final exam this year, they will do a final project,”said Adler.

Even though these formats are different from the normal exam format, Adler is hopeful for the results. “I believe this will be as effective as an in-class exam,” he said. “But it will also be a different nature than an in-class exam.”

Katherine Wydner, a Biology professor, is giving an online final exam for the first time .

“Next week I’m planning to attend a Google Meet workshop on final exams being taught by Rob Adelson of our IT department. I’m planning to set up the exam to be taken through Blackboard during the scheduled final exam,” said Wydner.

She believes that online exams can be effective in some ways.

“I think an online exam can be effective in assessing how much students have learned. Since I can’t proctor the exam, I am considering allowing it to be an “open resource” for them, meaning that they can use their notes, textbooks, the internet, etc. They will just be asked not to give or get help from any other person inside or outside the class,” Wydner said.

In the age of COVID-19, professors at SPU are figuring out new approaches to giving final exams that they believe will be effective.

As these new approaches are implemented, professors and students alike can see how it all turns out.

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