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Virtual or Physical Examination?

exam

Exams for the 2019/2020 academic session have been concluded in University of Lagos and unlike the first semester, this was done physically. Edugist Campus Ambassador for UNILAG, Abdulafeez Olaitan shares his personal experience doing a comparison between the virtual examination and the physical examination.

My experience during 2019/2020 Academic Session at the University of Lagos is one that will be emblazoned on my memory for a very long time. It was indeed, a memorable and reasonably long ride.

Resumption for first semester of the session was in January 2020. Fast forward to March 2020, the global pandemic (COVID-19) struck. This forced all students off the campus, taking 10 silent months before the University management recommended its customised online platform, Learning Management System (LMS) to continue academic activities.

Among the many things the pandemic normalized in educational sectors across the world were virtual classes and examinations. Before the pandemic, virtual classes were not so rampant, except in Distant Learning Institutes and whatnots. The use of virtual platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams etc. to organise classes became very popular during and post-pandemic.

Students resumed online lectures in January 2021 to complete the remainders of first semester, 2019/2020 session. Towards the period of completion of the classes, concerns started to loom amongst students as to the mode of examination for undergraduates. Bringing all students to campus to sit for their examination wasn’t in sight at all. As a result, only students of 300 level and higher levels were directed to return to campus in batches to sit for their exams. The University management resorted to subscribing to an online proctoring platform (Webtest) to organise examinations for 100 and 200 level students.

This decision for virtual exams resulted in many anomalies. While some students had to rewrite their exams after series of encounter with challenges during the course of writing their examination, some were not so lucky and took the fall for it.

You would be surprised at how many students would vote the online platform to sit for their exams, probably because they have found a way to cheat during the course of their exam, or for related reasons. However, the downside is it could cost both the University Management and Students quite a lot of resources. For example, Webtest charges a fee per candidate and depending on the length of the exam. Hence the University incurred extra monetary cost which was not budgeted for in order to gain access to the virtual platform.

On the part of the students, numerous complaints flew by. Twitter was the centre of discussion where many students expressed their dissatisfaction with the mode of examination. Many complained bitterly about how much they spent on internet data connection. Though the University Management promised to provide internet data subscription for students, howsoever, either there was a glitch in their system or they did a terribly bad job, because the promised data subscription didn’t make it to many students. Well, I didn’t receive it either.

Virtual exams also demand stable power supply. This happened to be a huge challenge in the country. I remember having to find a place to power my gadgets before my next exam to avoid stories that touch. Also, the virtual examinations demanded possession of a computer system or laptop. Many students only sorted this out few days to their exams due to the economic situation of the country.

One of the reasons some students would again vote the virtual mode of examinations is the belief that it would be lenient to an extent since it would contain only Multi Choice Questions (MCQs) as opposed to standard essay questions.

Physical resumption for second semester, 2019/2020 session was in May 2021 and the going was great until reports from UNILAG Medical Centre pointed to claims of noticeable increment in number of patients with complaints related to COVID-19 symptoms in the University community. The University management’s response to this was immediate. Students were instructed to vacate the hostels, and then the campus till further notice.

Compared to the previous semester which took an entire year before academic activities continued, the management reverted back to online classes as soon as possible this time around and this kept learning going. There were only few weeks remaining to the end of the semester, and the management made series of adjustment to the academic calendar.

First, the calendar indicated that examinations would both be physical and virtual. Thus, courses with more than 500 students offering it done online, while courses with lesser number of students done on campus. Soon, the management released its ultimate adjustment and it indicated that examinations would be fully physical. This sent chaos among students considering their state of unpreparedness.

The exams were scheduled to be done in batches with 100 and 200 level visiting the campus first, and higher levels subsequently. As usual, physical examinations are conventional. There was utmost need to study the courses thoroughly and to visit the exam hall as appropriate. To dress properly, and to remove any incriminating items from oneself, among many other things.

All things being equal, there wasn’t any challenge whatsoever with physical examinations as in contrast with virtual exams. Only thing I found unfair was the way the online classes were taught compared to the usual standard of physical examinations. Still, for me, I’ll vote physical examinations, anytime, any day. What about you, which would you prefer any day?

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