Online Exams: Helpful or Hurtful?

Is the “COVID-19 generation” of college students getting the most out of their education?

Photo credits to Glen Carstens Peters on Unsplash

Jessica Britton ’23 | jbritton8@radford.edu

College students have been using the internet to assist them on online exams at universities across the country. So, posing the question: Is the “COVID-19 generation” of college students getting the most out of their education?

Since March 2020, when covid swept the nation, college students were either required or suggested to take courses online, which meant exams would be administered online as well. The rise of online and “open-book” has many wondering if students are learning and retaining the information at their full potential. On many occasions, professors allow “open book exams,” where students can use their notes and textbooks.

After interviewing students and professors at Radford University, it seems that concerns about cheating are at the forefront of many minds, and questions arise about whether college professors should return to in-person exams. Many students use online or open-book exams as an excuse not to study the material, causing them not to preserve the information being taught.

The concern is, are those students getting the most out of the material they are learning? Dr. Scott Dunn, a communications professor at Radford University, shares that there are some advantages to online test-taking, “I think the biggest advantage is allowing students to take the exam wherever they feel comfortable. Test anxiety is a major issue for a lot of students.”

When asked how he will help students remember that learning the material is most important, Dr. Dunn said, “I think the most important thing is to understand what the professor expects from you. For example, if an exam is online and open-book, there’s a good chance that the professor wants you to apply the concepts you’ve learned rather than just memorizing vocabulary, and you should keep that in mind as you’re studying.”

One Radford University student, who wants to remain anonymous, is concerned that doing his exams online will limit his ability to learn all the material because he can simply look up his answers in his notes or textbook and won’t retain the information. But, on the other hand, he knows that it’s an easy way to get answers correct without putting much thought into the questions on the exams.

When asked if he thinks using outside resources to help students pass their exams will affect their careers in the future, the student feels that it’s unlikely. “We have access to all the information we need for our careers,” says the student. Open-book exams can retain the course material they are learning, but it is still concerning that they are not actively learning.

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