Enduring an online fall quarter at UCR was not easy. Class formats were inconsistent, and I felt completely alone and overwhelmed with the amount of work assigned to me. When midterms season hit, I was not prepared, and I did not feel supported by my professors. Some instructors focused way too much on invasive proctoring and withholding resources instead of the real purpose of test-taking — that is, a way for students to apply what they have learned so that they can better understand the material. If there was one thing I have learned this fall, it is the inability of professors to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances, and of course, place all the burden on students like myself.
As midterms season came around, I could not find it within myself to focus. The stress was so intense, and I felt like I had to choose which midterm to study for and which to put on the bottom of my priorities. I saw that my professors were unsupportive and did not provide helpful material in order to make up for the lack of in-person classes. What was more frustrating, was that some instructors refused to share their lecture notes or recordings, as they deemed it a breach of class policy. This, to me, was so unreasonable as I knew a lot of my peers, including myself, had to juggle jobs outside of school in order to support themselves, and therefore could not be present all of the time for classes. I felt dismissed and under the impression that my education was being compromised.
To make matters worse, professors are focusing way too much on the idea of students cheating that they are going to great lengths to prevent it. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of privacy. Professors are using software like YuJa in order to ensure academic integrity. However, YuJa not only records a student’s face and audio, but they also screen record everything on their personal device. This is a huge invasion of privacy, and I did not feel comfortable putting my trust in my professors—some not very tech-savvy themselves —to keep my information safe. Doing the absolute most to ensure that collaboration on exams will not occur for classes that failed to prepare its students to begin with is ridiculous and a waste of time.
Instead of focusing on extensive proctoring and following a so-called class policy, professors need to adapt to the difficulty of virtual learning. Exams need to be reworked into an open note and open-book format. Additionally, professors should be required to share resources, such as lecture notes and recordings. I would definitely feel more understood and supported by my professors if they were to make all exams follow this testing method and all course materials easily available for studying. This way, exams will be more focused on the application of ideas, which is what testing is meant to be. In fact, in the classes I had that made exams open book and open note, I found that I had learned more at the end than I did in classes that left me to struggle. By using application skills and doing research to help answer questions, I believe students will get more out of their classes.
Although it is uncertain when classes will go back to normal, professors should be more open and flexible with the way they run their online courses. Especially in these uncertain times, online classes seem like quite a threat to a student’s success, and when midterms season approaches, the pressure can be too much to handle. Myself and other students deserve to feel supported and reassured by the institution we give our money to, and this can be achieved through a shift in how online testing and exam prep are conducted at UCR.