Campus, students react to finals plans amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Infographic of COVID-19 cases during Spring 2022 finals
Christina Owen/Staff

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In light of a recent spike in campus COVID-19 cases, professors are seeing an increase in students requesting alternative options to in-person finals.

According to Nicholas Ngai, head teaching assistant for Computer Science 161, students have the option to take the final either in person or online. However, Randy Schekman, an instructor for Biology 1A, said that the exam will remain in person and alternative options will only be available to students who are ill or in quarantine.

“We have already been having a lot of requests for taking the test online and we really wanted to avoid that,” Schekman said. “We do not want to do it online. It is a nightmare to do that.”

Schekman said he’s observed a rise in cheating, forcing instructors to use proctoring technology which is very difficult to monitor for his course with 650 students.

While students with extenuating circumstances, such as illness, will be exempt from taking the exam in person, Schekman noted the rest of the class will be scheduled to take the final at the Recreational Sports Facility.

“Obviously we have to allow exceptions, but that is not our preference to offer the exam online,” Schekman said.

Campus second-year Masha Bondarenko said in an email that all of her finals will be in-person, with the possibility that her Computer Science 70 course will offer an online option.

Similar to Schekman, Bondarenko fears students who will opt for the online exam have the possibility of cheating that could “mess up the curve” in the class.

“The issue really is that my non-CS classes really do not have the means to make exams online fair,” Bondarenko said.

Meanwhile, Interim Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Oliver O’Reilly said in an email that they have “emphasized” with faculty the use of remote proctoring options for students who are ill and unable to take their exams in person.

For Computer Science 161, however, the course has offered hybrid exam options since the beginning of the year, according to Ngai. He added students do not need to have extenuating circumstances to take them remotely.

“Nicholas Weaver, who is the instructor for the course, said that your reason can be ‘I take tests better with my cat on my lap at home,’ ” Ngai said. “You do not need to have extenuating circumstances because we really want to support students who maybe are not willing to share their circumstances.”

Despite the increase in students who are requesting to take the exam online, Ngai noted the final will still be offered in person.

Moreover, campus sophomore Alex Truong said he understands the difficulty for instructors to find alternatives for their in-person exams at such short notice, but it is possible. He suggested offering make-ups during office hours or allowing students to take their exams remotely.

“I understand that it is difficult for professors to find alternatives at the last minute, but I do think there are ways you can work around it,” Truong said. “It is just about if they want to put in the attention and the time to help students.”

Contact Dhoha Bareche at [email protected].