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Online exams are setting us back

Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

Emma Vidak-Benjamin

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As education moves rapidly further into the digital age, I’ve noticed a large shift in the methods our teachers use to evaluate us. I’m referring to tests, quizzes, exams and finals. All of these have begun to be available only online, which I’ve especially noticed this semester.

Most students stress about finals, and I usually do too. But this semester, only one of my finals requires me to show up in person and take it. For all the rest I have the luxury of having to simply go online and take a test with no supervision.

Although I surely appreciate and enjoy being able to take my finals online, I can’t help but question how accurate of a measure this is in truly testing my comprehension of a semester’s worth of material.

It’s no secret that when students have the option to take an online test they don’t use their brain as the only resource. Many students will get together and take group tests, exchanging answers and information. Students will also usually have one or two tabs open at the same time, making sure they can readily look up any question they may not know the immediate answer to.

I personally think this is a poor method of proving a student’s subject knowledge, especially on a final exam. In the “old days,” students would be holed up in the library for weeks, stressing out over all their exams they would have to take during that final week. Even though I know most college students still do this, I know that’s changed for me and many of my peers this semester.

For one, I don’t feel challenged at all when I feel like I don’t even need to study for a final exam. All my notes are conveniently located on my computer, giving me access to most of the information needed to know on an exam. This takes away from all the study time I would normally put into grasping and mastering a class’s content.

It seems as if teachers are taking shortcuts in order to avoid making and administering an in-person final. Most of the online tests I take are just simply questions generated from the online textbook we use, and the teacher had no part in crafting the questions or the answers.

Taking an online final also alleviates the stress of teachers having to grade all those exams at the end of the year. Instead, they can conveniently have the computer add up and generate a test score in a matter of seconds. With an online final, it’s extremely doubtful that there’s anyone reviewing your work and answers, checking to see what you know or where you went wrong.

An online final also gives you no room for error. Of course, on most tests you either get the answer right or wrong. However, many of my teachers in the past who administer in-person tests and then grade them themselves will cut students some slack. If they see your work and physically see you on the right track but with an error or two, then you may be able to gain more points.

A computer cuts no one any slack; the answers are either right or wrong. Technology is very black and white, and it’s no different when it comes to our online tests.

Even though online finals can be a lot easier and relieve some of the stress we feel toward showing up for an actual final, I think we’re losing out on a valuable part of our education through these online exams. We’re losing a very essential exam experience, effort from our teachers and feedback on our work and accumulated knowledge over the semester. It doesn’t sound very fair, does it?

Emma Vidak-Benjamin can be reached at [email protected] or @gnarlyemma on Twitter.

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The student news site of California State University, Chico
Online exams are setting us back