It is no secret that a lot has changed over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One large change that the youths of the world had to adjust to was the transition from everyday, in-person learning and school going, to completely virtual and remote learning. No matter if the child was a kindergartner or a young adult who was finishing up a graduate or undergraduate degree, the challenges of learning to navigate this new “normal” was difficult (and still is) for all. 

Speaking from the stance of a college student, there have certainly been quite a few components that have become completely different in terms of our methods of learning. Hybrid classes, asynchronous learning and virtual office hours have all been anything but ordinary. However, one of the biggest, and most controversial, changes to our academic experience, has been the virtual exams. 

With us being in the thick of midterm season (and finals trailing not too far behind), the question of whether the system of virtual exams is fair or unfair has certainly arisen amongst students. Many different professors take many different approaches when it comes to conducting exams. There are some cases where all students take the exam virtually, other cases where all students take the exam in-person, or even situations where a hybrid option is proposed or put into effect. All of these different options and all the different approaches that professors choose to take with different classes, definitely cause a debate of whether these circumstances are fair or unfair.

Personally, I feel as if the way in which a professor chooses to go about administering an exam for one of their classes is fully their call and can be done however they feel most comfortable. Many people forget about the bigger picture and why we are having exams online in the first place. Afterall, we are still in the middle of a global pandemic and people have different levels of comfort when it comes to being in a room with a group of people no matter how small the group may be.

With this being said, some professors really may not be comfortable with sitting in a room watching students taking an exam during these times. Some professors have underlying health conditions, compromised immune systems or live with someone who is immunocompromised, which could therefore cause them to want to take a chance in getting exposed to the virus from students. For this reason, a good amount of professors decide to have completely online exams for their students, which is certainly something that cannot be argued against or complained about. 

On the other hand, there are also certainly a good number of professors who decide to hold exams in-person because they are vaccinated and can afford to be in the classroom with their students as they take the exam. Many would argue that this is not fair that some professors for certain classes are holding their exams in person while others hold theirs online with an open-note policy. We cannot argue with the level of comfort or protection that a professor has for this virus. Just like how professors are more lenient with us about attendance policies, they have the right to be more lenient with how they choose to structure their course including the way an exam should be taken. 

It is a lot more common for us students to miss a class here and there these days for various reasons. Whether it be you got contact traced, just tested positive or have to get an emergency COVID test due to possible exposure, many professors have been more understanding and supportive of last minute absences to classes. 

With all of this being said and put into perspective, although it may be annoying or seem unfair, it is definitely just that there are varying different styles of how exams are being administered. It is necessary that during this time measures be taken that are acceptable and work for everyone. Even if you do have an exam that is supposed to be taken in person and an emergency comes up, it is extremely likely that your professor will make it available to you online or some other form. 

These trying times for the world are all about flexibility and learning to adapt. This is the case both in and out of the classroom. With everyone doing their part and working together, hopefully, we will all be taking exams through the same approach in the very near future. 

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