From April 27-May 5, NC State students took the usual end-of-semester finals delivered by faculty. However, finals week looked a little different this year because of the switch from in-person to remote education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat these changes, professors began discussing ways to implement accessible finals for their students.
Dr. Lianne Cartee, director of the undergraduate program in biomedical engineering, said her fellow department staff prepared individually to administer finals before the end of the semester.
“There were a lot of workshops and a lot of resources available to instructors, so we didn’t collectively tackle it as a faculty, but we individually attended university workshops,” Cartee said. “The workshops spent a lot of time talking about the best ways to reduce student stress, look at academic integrity, the software available to us and really just familiarizing us with the tools available.”
Beth Wright Fath, teaching associate professor and head of the Department of Health and Exercise Studies, discussed some of the struggles her department faced. With Carmichael Gym largely closed off to students, instructors had to address the differences in equipment available to students in their homes.
“Obviously some students have access to home gyms or access to weights,” Fath said. “I know one faculty member said she had a student who was using her outdoor furniture, so lifting chairs and tables, so I think it was a testament of creativity and collaboration between faculty and students. I know some people would tell students to use water bottles or milk jugs that you can adjust the water to adjust the weights, for example.”
Adaptability has largely been the motto for a lot of the NC State faculty and staff when administering finals. According to Fath, while many classes were capable of transferring their physical tests to online examinations, not all finals could be easily transferred to websites such as Moodle. Classes such as Archery and Symphonic Band, both originally requiring large on-campus spaces such as Carmichael Gym or Stewart Theatre respectively, could not administer their usual finals and turned to written exams.
Other classes used more outside applications, with many instructors in the Department of Health and Exercise Studies using various workout recording applications to track physical activities such as walking or running in classes such as Fitness Walking. Scott Despain, associate professor and associate head of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, discussed how foreign language courses at NC State were utilizing technology to administer finals.
“So there’s probably three different scenarios in our department,” Despain said. “Some have been sending a hard copy of the final and having a Zoom session for the students to take the test and send it back, and others have been using Google Forms and its quizzing capabilities in terms of our lower divisions. As for our upper divisions, they have continued to do their presentations and projects either synchronously or recorded.”
Grades have also been a key point of discussion during finals for many faculty and staff. While many final examinations have largely tried to stay on-par with the rigor of courses prior to NC State’s response to COVID-19, many professors have had to adapt their finals to better fit the needs of their students. According to Fath, the Department of Health and Exercise Studies shifted many of the traditional weightlifting class finals to focus more bodyweight exercises.
With finals over, first-year studying civil engineering, Clayton Hinson, expressed various sentiments about experiencing finals during the COVID-19 pandemic, and said he has mixed feelings on how some professors administered finals.
“All physics tests in the past, for example, were multiple choice and they decided to make the online tests free response and that was just an entire mess,” Hinson said. “These are such different times. You don't know what people are going through and their situation. I know personally I don’t have as much time to study because I’m having to do stuff with my family, so I think the university should be more understanding with finals and their difficulty.”
The Spring 2020 semester and its correspondent finals week ended on May 5, with Summer Session I starting this year on May 13.