Finals exams tailored to fit virtual setting

As the fall semester comes to an end, students are left wondering what finals will look like this year after the countless different testing methods teachers have tried.

The fall finals schedule was announced during Thanksgiving break on the Diamond Bar High School website, stating that each finals period will have 82 minutes for their exams rather than the usual two hours. 

To adjust to the virtual setting, teachers have had to make varying degrees of changes to this year’s finals depending on how they usually test their students. For those who give projects rather than exams, the alterations will be minor.

“I always have my [students] do group presentations, and that will remain the same this year and will be fairly easy to transfer to distance learning,” math teacher Dena Lordi said via email. “It’s a much more enjoyable assessment experience for all involved.  I think my students have appreciated the alternate method to show off what they know.”

Some teachers fear technical difficulties may cause disruptions during finals week. To counter this problem, history teacher Emily Clark allows her students to pre-record their finals projects to present on finals day.

“The presentations will be available for students to watch asynchronously so if they have technical difficulties on the day of the final, they can watch on their own,” Clark said via email. “Since we will be working on this project for a week prior to the due date, we should be able to work around any difficulties.”

Although teachers will provide students with leeway in some regards due to the challenges of online exams, the content will be roughly the same as previous years’ exams.

“I tend to try to be very understanding but also maintain a standard of responsibility for the students,” Lordi said. “Especially this far into the school year—students should understand that assessment is comprehensive: can you do the math? Can you manage your time during a test? Can you responsibly inform the teacher of technical issues?”

Despite the many challenges presented by this year’s finals, some students believe that online exams are a better method of testing because, with notes often permitted, they assess students’ understanding of the subject instead of memorization. 

“It encourages students to actively take good notes during class time and keep up and now doze off or joke around and keep up with the lesson,” junior Cassie Nam said via Instagram.

However, many question the effectiveness of the new format at measuring a student’s ability relative to their peers, especially in those classes whose exams are graded on a curve, because of the possibilities of academic dishonesty. 

“I personally don’t think it’s a good idea because they can’t prevent cheating at all. And therefore it’s just not fair and the grading will be affected by the cheating,” Alexis Bermudez said. “Most will [not] be what the student knows, it will be what the internet knows.”

Their worries are not unfounded, and teachers have been testing various methods to reduce cheating as much as possible, including lockdown browsers, screen-recording services like Loom and other testing platforms.

Regardless of the methods teachers choose to administer these exams, finals week will be the end of a challenging semester for both students and teachers.

“There’s always going to be at least one individual who finds a way to cheat, but my hope is that people hold integrity and that they honor a system designed to test [their] mastery of a subject,” senior Luke Zhou said.