A New World of Assessments

Sarah Manderbach '22, Opinion Editor

With a new approach to learning coming under full swing this fall semester, students all over the country are still finding ways to adjust to this electronic means of attending classes. From middle and high schools to colleges, a multitude of students are being impacted in more ways than one. For example, the SATs and the ACTs, which were originally a huge part of college admission processes, suddenly is a struggle to even conduct. As of September 3, Dickinson College, whose acceptance of these test scores are already lax, has made the ultimate decision to go test-blind this year in admissions due to the lack of testing availability during the pandemic.

Personally, I think it’s a good decision overall. But as we enter the first full month of being online, it has made me wonder why such consideration isn’t made for testing in classes.

Right now, professors are either making students download a document on Moodle and taking the assessment during the class Zoom period or on their own time. Even then, the ways that these exams and quizzes are being handled completely vary based on the subject matter. Online quizzes and exams seem to be the norm, but even that might not be enough. For subjects that are math based or require you to show some kind of work process as to how you get your answer help students get a lot of partial credit, even if their final answer is wrong. With online quizzing, that isn’t much of an option when the online program only gives you one chance to get it. 

There is also the immediate fear about what happens beyond the computer screen. To fix this, the University of Wisconsin-Madison allowed professors to use a system called Honorlock, which, according to an article from CNN late August, a “software… that can record video – and much more – of students as they take tests, and uses AI to point out any behavior that looks like cheating.” So many students and professors were iffy about this program that a petition was started to ban it from the university. As of the time of this piece is being written, the petition has 1,803 signatures and is still growing. 

With this and hundreds of other softwares similar to it being embraced by education institutions everywhere, it stems a lot of concerns. Do professors not trust their students? How does this impact students with test anxiety? How does this impact students who usually require testing accommodations from their school? Even I get more scared that I normally would be taking a quiz or exam out of the fear that I won’t get the scan of my exam up in time, or that a big problem that only allows one chance I can’t even get partial credit on. How will this end up impacting me in the long run?

Everyone keeps saying that this is only temporary, that the pandemic will be over soon, we’ll get a cure, and we’ll be back to normal by the spring. And yes, this is a seemingly common belief. However, this is our present. This is heavily impacting students every day, and what we may consider our best alternative may still not be enough. All we can do, as students, is try our best, and know that we are enough, and that tests do not define us, especially during these trying times.