By Nadja Lovdinov, Second Year, Geography
Exam season is the most stressful period for a student. Staggering into a daunting exam hall with the pretence of confidence, and seeing the sea of wobbly desks stretching to the far horizon seems like a faded, distant memory.
Glued onto the uncomfortable plastic chairs, scrutinising the four walls of the exam hall, eyes planted on the intimidating, oblique clock.
Now faced with the ticking clock of our time at university, many of us are more than halfway through our degree having not taken a single non-virtual exam. At this point it would be ridiculous for the university to introduce non-virtual exams in our final year even if it were possible.
We cannot seriously be expected to perform in the same manner as previous year groups have in their final year. What kind of applicable or relevant preparation have we had for our final year?
Irrespective of the answer to this question, one thing appears clear: we are going to have to get on with it. Society has changed, and we must change with it. The pandemic has changed the fundamental significance of what it means to be a student.
Adaptation is essential and as the saying goes, where there is a will there is a way. I strongly believe that no one will push us except ourselves and that we are all ultimately responsible for our own success.
Pushing for decentralisation and diversification of examinations could be a reasonable alternative
Having said that, rather than offering their habitual pseudo sympathies, the University must also take a different, innovative approach in preparing students for their final year.
Independence is obviously a crucial component of university, thus universities should empower their students to embody self-determination where possible in these unprecedented times.
Pushing for decentralisation and diversification of examinations could be a reasonable alternative. By exercising agency, students could chose from a variety of options, such as open book virtual exams, video conference vivas, submitting coursework or portfolios, all of which have already been suggested in the past at other universities.
The Open University has long since demonstrated there are other ways of teaching and preparing for exams
Yet with the grade inflations that took place in 2020 and calls for universities to elevate their acceptance standards, issues of comparability and fairness will invariably arise with decentralising exams.
Yet the academic uncertainty of the last year that has lead the masses to request extenuating circumstances highlights that presently the system preparing students for their final year isn’t working in their favour in the long run. Something has to change.
This brings me to address the wider issue at stake: the shifting role of universities in the light of virtual learning and degree courses becoming eerily similar to those of Open University. Instead of seeing this as a negative however, one could view this prompting of universities to embrace new digital ways of teaching as a positive thing.
The Open University has long since demonstrated there are other ways of teaching and preparing for exams. However, this year many of us have been disappointed and unsatisfied with the monotonous delivery of information we have experienced, particularly when compared to pre-pandemic education.
Moving forward, structural changes will definitely be needed in order for the universities to not only adapt themselves adequately, but to properly prepare their students for a return to academic normality.
Teaching and non-virtual exams have challenged the academic lives of university students, reshaping what it means to be a student and arguably leaving many feeling left behind. Therefore, students must continue to challenge universities and their policies.
Featured Image: Epigram / Lucy O'Neill
Do you think it will be difficult returning to in person teaching and exams?