Online exams

June 30, 2020

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Due to fast spread of COVID-19 the whole world has turned upside down in an instant. The corona virus already had many consequences. Many countries have been in complete lockdown, schools were closed down and leaving the house was only allowed to get necessary supplies like groceries and  medicine. Since the schools and universities have been closed for the last few months, a quick transition to an online environment had to be made. Meaning al lectures would have to be in an online format. In addition, exams have to be taken through online means as well. And this in turn might have had many consequences for students and professors alike.

Online classes

Online classes are new for most universities and schools and that is why the educational format may differ between classes. There are two main formats that can be encountered. The prerecorded classes, where the professors go over the material and students can plan when to watch the lectures themselves and the live online classes where student join a certain kind of online collaboration room where the students can ask questions live. These two formats are very different so let’s sum up some pros and cons for both. 

First of all, the ability for students to schedule the lectures themselves can be very nice since students generally live a busy life next to the study itself. A second positive point is the ability to study at your own pace. Since the lectures are prerecorded the tempo of the lecture can be adjusted by for example skipping easy parts or pausing for more difficult parts. Lastly, lectures can be watched multiple times which can also be a huge benefit to the students. For the professors the same pros hold, since they can pace themselves and record the lectures at their own designated times. There are however some flaws in this style of lecturing. The first point being that the students are not able to ask questions during the lecture. This may not seem that relevant since students can just write the professors an email with their question, but the ability of other students benefiting from a question asked by another student is gone in this case. A second major flaw is the fact that professors tend to make mistakes. This is not the fault of the professors since we all make mistakes, but in this format students do not have the ability to correct mistakes made by the professors easily. This may cause students who did not notice the mistake to take it as a given and therefore see something as correct when it is in fact not. 

For the second format a first pro is the ability to ask questions instantly and live. This way students who have questions get their answer faster and other students can benefit from the question too. A second pro is the ability for students to correct professors on their mistakes instantly. This will prevent students from learning incorrect study materials and will prevent mistakes on exams. A third and final pro is the interactiveness of the lectures. Because students get to participate in the lectures they generally tend to forget less of the material discussed in the lectures. This will in turn decrease the amount of time they have to spend on studying before the exams. These points also hold for professors for similar reasons. This style of lecturing also sadly has some flaws. The first one being the fact that the lectures are not recorded. Hence students who did not or were not able to attend these lectures have a major disadvantage in comparison to the students who did attend. This comes into play when discussing the second flaw. Not being able to schedule the lectures yourself. Since students are not able to schedule the lectures themselves they may not be able to attend all the lectures. Combining this with point one and we have a major flaw. Finally comparing both formats, we find that both formats both have positive and negative arguments and it is up to the professors to decide which one they thinks is best suited for their course.

Online exams

The exam format has also been changed due to COVID-19. For school and universities in most countries the switch has been made to an online format. Let us first discuss the format. Again a couple of exam formats can be encountered. The first method of examining is the assignment format. In this case there will be no regular exam and just an assignment instead. This can range from writing a paper to something more practical like designing something. This format is a good solution to no direct exams in my opinion, since it tests if the student has the knowledge to pass without putting the students under a lot of stress, since assignments are more familiar than the other types of online exams. Another format is where students have to keep their webcam on to make sure they are actually making the exam themselves, but the students are allowed to use everything they have access to. This contains things like notes, lecture slides or even the internet. Which are very useful when making an exam. This might however mean that the professors will have increased the difficulty of the exams. Lasty, we encounter a very strict exam format. This exam is just like a regular exam where you are not allowed to communicate with anyone and not allowed to make use of things like a phone or a book. The format is very hard to monitor for the invigilators this way, since it is hard to capture the entire room of all students at the same time. This is why the open book exam is generally prefered by the professors. To make cheating harder a measurements called “no backtracking” and “randomization of questions”  are also enforced in both types of online exams. This is to prevent students colluding with each other to make the exam easier. Especially the rule of no backtracking makes the exam a lot more difficult. This is mostly due to the fact that it is harder to spread your time and if you do not know how to answer a question, you have to skip it and are not able to come back to it later. This way students are not able to finish an exam or students finish the exam to early and still would have had plenty of time to answer the questions they did not get fast enough. The rule of randomization of questions is however understandable, since it will help prevent students from colluding without giving some students a major disadvantage over other students. 

Finally, some general pros and cons that hold for all formats alike. A pro is the fact that the surroundings are very familiar to the student. This may help in reducing stress for the exam. For example, student can wear more comfortable clothes and sit on a better chair.  And a final con being the fact that students have no reference to previous online exams make them very unpredictable. This mostly leads to more stress for the students and professors, since the students do not know what to expect and professors do not know what kind of exam format works well and what kind of questions they should ask on an online exam. In the end it is all up to the professors to decide and the students to see.


At least I think students still prefer the regular lecture and exam formats over the online ones. This is mostly due to the fact that online exams have no reference they can look up. This means that particularly exams will become a lot less predictable and hence a lot harder to study for. Regular classes also have a different feel to them. You are just more engaged and attentive when sitting in a lecture hall in comparison to laying on bed with a laptop in my opinion. Finally there are some different formats that you can encounter for both the classes and the exams. All have their pros and cons and hence it will ultimately come down to the professors to decide which formats are most fitting to their liking and course.

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