An examination of virtual finals

By Samantha Hilyer

It's been a time of unforeseen circumstances and adaptation, but just like the end of any other semester, finals week is upon us. However, with virtual learning in place, some professors have made some adjustments to their finals, to minimize cheating and allow for more flexibility for students. Others have kept their finals relatively unaltered.

Associate Professor of Communication Dr. Jessica Harvey stated that she is adding extra time to her timed final test in order to work better with students’ at-home schedules. Harvey also said she is eliminating the temptation of cheating by allowing an open notes exam. One of Harvey’s finals, a group report based on a group semester-long project, had to be converted into a final test of the year because students could no longer work on the project after COVID-19 led to students leaving campus.

“I haven’t found a leap in quality or accuracy that would raise my suspicions that online responses create an unfair advantage.” - Dennis McDaniel

Furthermore, in order to help students prepare, Harvey is hosting an optional Zoom study session before her final exams.

Dr. Dennis McDaniel, associate professor of English, indicated he has been fortunate in having his finals translate relatively smoothly into the world of virtual learning. In his EL 103 class, Principles of Literary Study, McDaniel said he normally would give a multiple-choice test on Schoology. In his other courses, he tests his students’ understanding of course material through a series of short and long essay answers.

According to McDaniel, he is not concerned that the virtual finals will lead to an increase of cheating on his final exams.

“Comparing online responses to those from the bluebook days,” McDaniel explained, “I haven’t found a leap in quality or accuracy that would raise my suspicions that online responses create an unfair advantage.”

To the contrary, McDaniel has observed that, so far, online testing has had numerous benefits.

“I have found that the online responses are more fully developed and a heck of a lot easier to read, manage, and grade,” McDaniel said.

According to an article by Academic Innovation Michigan, students may have to trade their studying strategies during COVID-19 for new approaches that include no multitasking, a set schedule, and the recreation of regular study environments at home. (Source: Pixabay)

However, his Study Abroad class will be foregoing a test and was instead asked to present live on Zoom for the Academic Conference, which was held virtually on Wednesday, April 22. Some of McDaniel’s other classes must also complete oral presentations, which McDaniel believes will be the more challenging aspect of online testing.

Dr. Doreen Blandino, professor of Modern & Classical Languages, is in a similar situation to McDaniel. Blandino said she has been able to successfully convert her class to an online setting, and is planning on continuing with her original final layout, although she will be using the Schoology platform with a timed test and only one attempt to, hopefully, deter students from cheating.

However, like McDaniel, Blandino does not believe that online finals will lead to an increase in cheating, and her plan to combat cheating has not changed.

“I empower students,” Blandino explained. “I diligently work to prepare students for every exam by giving them the tools that they need to be successful.”

For her final, Blandino requires her students to know 1,080 verb forms that encompass five different tenses and moods. In order to assist students in their studying, Blandino said takes time out of class to organize a final study sheet in Excel with the verb phrases.

"This crisis has shown us that we can put aside our differences. We have the power to unite our world, to make it a thriving, safe, and kindhearted home." - Doreen Blandino

Blandino said she is also hoping to find a way to be live with her students online as they take the final exam so that she can answer questions as they arise.

Even though circumstances have been challenging, Blandino said, the Saint Vincent community has rallied together in order to offer support, and faculty and staff members with knowledge on virtual classes have been sharing their expertise and advice in conducting online courses.

Blandino said that her students have been incredible and understanding as she transitioned her course from physical classes to remote learning.

“I pray that we can all return in good health for the fall,” Blandino said. “This crisis has shown us that we can put aside our differences. We have the power to unite our world, to make it a thriving, safe, and kindhearted home.”

#SamanthaHilyer #Finals #Coronavirus #Professors #Exams #Cheating

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