“Home Alone”: finals version

By Dina Usnaovic

Cleveland State University recently joined the bandwagon of universities across Ohio by announcing that classes will continue remotely following Thanksgiving Break. This is not incredibly surprising, as COVID cases have increased substantially in the past few weeks. However, the university made a point to attempt to follow their normal fall calendar until now. 

The transfer to remote classes comes at a crucial point in the semester, with finals being the week after the transfer happens. While at-home finals may be easier than in-class finals, it is more difficult for some students to focus and study when tests are taken at home. In most cases, students get distracted at home with more opportunities to turn on the television, listen to music, or do anything but study. It is important to study, do homework, and prepare for tests in remote classes as you would in on-campus classes. 

One way to separate school-life from home-life is to designate a room in your house- that is not a bedroom- to be a school-only room. By doing this, you won’t be as tempted to lay in bed, watch television, or play video games. Another way to focus your attention on schoolwork is to set goals for yourself: tell yourself you can’t go on your phone until you get through another chapter of notes, or reward yourself with an episode of your favorite show after you finish your paper. 

Cleveland State was hesitant to transfer to online-only instruction for Finals because of the possibility of cheating. However, upon deciding that student lives were more important than the possibility of cheating, the decision was easy. 

In some cases, traditional final exams have been replaced with final papers or final projects; in other cases, final exams have been made open-book and open-note. To me, these alternatives promote the actual long-term learning of specific, important topics rather than short-term memorization to get through a test. However, other universities have implemented new features to prevent cheating, such as cheating-detection programs that monitor movement through a laptop’s webcam during exams. 

These softwares are causing extreme anxiety and fear in students across the country. It is important for teachers and administrations to understand that the possibility of cheating is less important than properly learning information. If a student is so anxious about an exam because of the strict software that will catch every eye movement and irregular mouse-click that they cannot focus on the information they are supposed to be learning. It hinders their education.

In fact, if the emphasis is placed on learning the information through lower-stress assignments- such as projects and application papers- the probability of cheating is significantly lowered and the probability of long-term knowledge of the subject is significantly raised.

 It is possible that being forced to switch to remote tests and classes will change the way classes are formatted to support long-term learning rather than test-taking ability.

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