The University recently announced that Semester One, Quarter One and Quarter Two examinations will be held online (with some exceptions), regardless of Covid-19 Alert Level.
Invigilated tests including mid-semester tests will be held on campus if we move to Alert Level One. At Level Two or higher, tests (with some exceptions) will be held online.
In an email to students and staff, Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater said the decision to move all assessments online was made with the possibility of further disruption from changing alert levels in mind.
“One of the very clear messages we heard from both students and staff last year is that clarity and predictability are vitally important in preparing for examinations and tests.”
This follows Summer School examinations moving online when Level Three restrictions were introduced the night before some students were set to sit their exams in-person.
Reactions from students to the announcement have been mixed. Several students say they prefer online examinations, and are pleased by the decision.
“The certainty and relief this provides me is enormous. I feel so much calmer about this year now.”
“I think it’s a good thing exams are online this semester since we never know when the alert levels could suddenly go up again. The sudden change from in-person to online exams last year was really disruptive and uncertainty is likely to make students more anxious.”
Changing alert levels created uncertainty for students preparing for exams in Semester Two of last year, and Summer School of this year, with some students arguing the University should have scheduled all exams online last year.
“I think it’s a good thing exams are being set as online from the beginning. Last semester, I had an exam the day before the sudden announcement of it moving online. I thought it was unfair that people who sat their exams online had an advantage which would be reflected in their grades and GPA’s.”
Others have commended the Vice-Chancellor on her decision, stating she has redeemed herself after last year’s controversy regarding her Parnell home. One student who wishes to remain anonymous responded to the announcement, “Dawn learned her lesson from last year’s shenanigans, Imao”.
However, the announcement is facing criticism from some students who say having in-person classes while doing online assessments doesn’t make sense.
“This is my third year and I haven’t had an exam since my first. What’s the point of even having in-person study? There’s almost no incentive to retain or learn information now.”
Another student argues that the lack of supervision during online exams creates an unfair playing field.
Zak told Craccum about a class he had in semester two of last year, where the majority of the class voted on taking the harder, at home exam over an easier one in person.
“Our lecturer told us that if we voted, we would get the harder exam even if we showed up in-person to the provided exam room.”
“If the exams and grading are getting tougher because of it being ‘open book’, and people are getting higher average grades because of dishonest at-home methods of test taking, people taking exams and tests legitimately are at a disadvantage. Their overall grades may be reduced to accommodate the higher scores of their peers because of scaling or other adjustments.”
Online examinations create an unexpected challenge to students in competitive programmes, and those pursuing postgraduate study.
“In engineering, your final GPA matters as it has honours built-in which is determined by your GPA. I feel almost compelled to cheat in order to keep up with my peers and with the adjustment to the material in the exams.”
Zak told Craccum he prefers the environment of an on-campus examination where there are minimal distractions.
“Nothing beats the focus and clarity you get from sitting in-person exams in a silent lecture theatre and not being in a shitty inner city apartment next to a main road.”
The University has assured appropriate measures will be put in place for students to support equitable participation in online tests and examinations, and says they will provide further information on this soon.