‘It’s not a risk I want to take’: 30% of University Extension students face testing uncertainty

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Nestled on the ground floor of the Graduate School of Business Building, the Center for Teaching and Learning’s testing facilities serve thousands of students.
Photo Credit: Jack DuFon | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Daily Texan’s coverage of how coronavirus concerns are affecting UT-Austin. Read the rest of our coverage here.

While all enrolled undergraduate and graduate students will complete their classes and exams online, almost one-third of students enrolled in University Extension do not yet have the option to finish their self-paced courses online.  

University Extension offers anyone the option of enrolling in individual online or in-person courses for college credit. While the course content and assignments can be accessed online, final exams typically are taken in person at a testing center to verify the student’s identity.

After University administration notified professors to prepare to move their classes online March 11, University Extension began transitioning exams from in person and on paper to remote and digital, said Karen Smid, director of enrollment and Student Services at Texas Extended Campus. Seventy percent of University Extension students in 22 different courses are able to take exams online as of Thursday, Smid said in an email. The remaining 30% in 20 courses are waiting to hear from their class instructors. According to their website, University Extension is currently working to move exams online for all self-paced courses.  

Smid said University Extension does not have a timeline of when every class will be fully transitioned to online exams, and the transition has been more difficult for some courses than others.

“For certain courses, this has been a bit challenging, particularly courses where students are expected to work problems step by step and show their work,” Smid said. 

In-person testing is still an option for University Extension students who want to finish their courses, Smid said. UT spokesperson Kathleen Harrison said there is no in-person testing for enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. Because University Extension students are not required to enroll with UT, the policy does not apply to their courses.

Bianca Beronio, Texas State English and political science senior, enrolled in a self-paced math class offered through University Extension in December to secure the final credit needed to complete her degree at Texas State University. She said she is worried she will not finish the class on time to graduate in the spring.

Beronio said she lives with her husband, who has a compromised immune system, and her two children. When it was clear to her that taking the test in person would put her at risk of contracting COVID-19 and possibly transmitting it to her household, she said she asked her instructor on March 13 if she could take the final exam online. She said her instructor told her that to preserve the integrity of the course and verify her identity, Beronio still needed to take the test in person at a secure testing site.

“It’s not a risk I want to take — going to campus to take this exam —  and I don’t think it’s a risk anyone should take,” Beronio said.

On March 20, University Extension extended the deadline for all students to finish their courses by 30 days to compensate for the transition to online proctoring, Smid said. Classes scheduled to end in May will now end in June. 

“I wasn’t really looking for another 30 days,” Beronio said. “I would have graduated on time at Texas State had I finished my classes up before the beginning of May, and now I won’t be able to qualify for graduation until the December graduation. That already puts me another semester behind when I’m already behind on my degree.”

Smid said in an email that University Extension is aware some students are facing graduation deadlines, and University Extension is committed to finding ways to allow them to complete their courses. She encouraged students facing deadlines to reach out to the University Extension office directly to come up with possible solutions.