Professors had time to prepare for this different type of semester, but constant changes in student life due to the pandemic have made this semester anything but predictable.
Classwork during this unique semester has required a new approach to planning exams and special projects, but one thing has been certain from the beginning: not returning to campus after Thanksgiving break and a completely virtual finals week.
For many professors, an online finals week doesn’t require much of an adjustment. Some have always had a final project or take-home assignment in place of a final exam and aren’t affected by having students submit these virtually, while others had to make adjustments.
Carl Anderson, a music business professor, has found making the change to online to be a little difficult. As students migrated away from in-person over the semester, all of his classes became either hybrid or completely online. Because of the number of students Anderson has online, his only option was to make his exams virtual as well. He teaches Introduction to Music Business and Music Agency and Fine Arts Administration.
“It is challenging to do this because many of my classes involve a lot of mathematics, which creates difficulties in having students show their work,” Anderson said in an email interview.
Anderson has looked to new projects for his students that he otherwise wouldn’t have tried. Normally, his Music Promotions Practicum class would involve a lot of campus events within the music department, but with so few live events happening, he had to adjust.
“I divided the class up into four ‘record labels,’ each with an embedded student-artist,” Anderson
said. “They each had to produce a music video around their artist, and the results were amazing.”
When French professor Alexander Hertich started out the semester, most of his students came to class in person. As the semester progressed, he saw about half of his students online and half coming in-person on any given day. According to Hertich, there was a good number of students on each end to encourage collaboration.
“If we’re working on things as a class, the students on Zoom can work together in breakout rooms while the students in [in-person] class can work with whoever they’re sitting by,” Hertich said.
As far as exams go, Hertich isn’t too concerned with the change. He is setting up one-on-one Zoom calls with the classes that require oral exams and plans to upload his written finals to Canvas for students to take.
“This works out pretty well,” Hertich said. “If [students] have any concerns, they haven’t expressed them to me, though I do try to be as accommodating as possible and reasonable.
Like many other professors, television arts instructor David Lennie has been wary of the lack of academic integrity that results from online learning. His final exam is optional, but he said he still wants to keep the test honest. With no way to physically supervise his final exams, he’s had to put in some extra security measures and give extra trust in his students to prevent cheating and reproductions of his exams.
Lennie has his students download LockDown Browser, a program that prevents other tabs from being opened and can record video and audio. Additionally, students are required to send a video of their workspace not shown in their computer’s camera to ensure no cheating is possible.
“Students may not realize this, but writing exams is hard work,” Lennie said. “And having to throw one out and rewrite it because it’s been compromised is even harder. You still need to test knowledge on the same material but ask questions differently.”