Professors, open up to the idea of open note testing

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Photo Credit: Helen Brown | Daily Texan Staff

In a world of uncertainty with a global pandemic and widespread stay-at-home orders, the last thing on students’ minds is how they will score well on their next test or quiz. Yet, there are professors who continue to be unaccommodating to students' needs, despite the University’s advice to show compassion toward students and to work to make things easier. 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and surrounding situations, professors should consider changing their testing policies to open note tests and quizzes in order to reduce student stress.

With an open note option, students can feel more at ease when it comes to their grades. So long as they watch the online lectures and take notes, they can score well on an open note test. They won’t have to devote long periods of time to studying just to succeed in their courses. 

Students don’t have access to the same tools they used to, so it isn’t fair to hold them to the same academic standards as before. Additionally, students may have new circumstances going beyond the academic realm, such as picking up extra shifts at work or caring for family members.    

In my own case, I have a mother with cancer. Her immune system is compromised from chemotherapy, meaning she has an incredibly high risk of contracting COVID-19 and it being fatal. My brother and I are feeling an immense amount of worry, so school is the least of our concerns right now. 

Thus, grades during a pandemic are not an accurate reflection of a student’s own performance and effort, but instead their surrounding circumstances. Nevertheless, professors continue to go against the University's advice of lightening the load on students. 

“I have multiple classes that have actually ramped up schoolwork since COVID-19 hit,” said another student, who wishes to remain anonymous.

As a result of this increase in assigned work, some students have to struggle with academic burdens on top of the anxiety caused by a global pandemic.   

“In my case, I really cannot drop certain courses because I need them to graduate. I've had health problems because of the stress of certain classes,” another student said, who also wishes to remain anonymous. 

For professors, switching to open note testing would not be a difficult change. 

“Moving everything online is a big inconvenience, but making the accommodations that I made were not a big inconvenience to me,” said associate professor David Junker.

I realize some professors may wish to create stricter policies in light of the switch, as they are afraid of an increase in cheating, but the solution I propose can actually decrease cheating. 

According to Faculty Focus, an online publication for the higher education community, “Instead of wasting valuable time to deter cheating, open-book tests shift the onus of responsibility onto the students themselves. They are the ones who must track down answers and page through online notes.”  

Students can discuss their ideas about the material with others and must keep up with lecture notes in order to score well. However, they now won’t have to dedicate hours to memorizing class material. As a result, students strike an ideal balance between managing daily life and learning class content. 

This is also a great opportunity for professors to better evaluate their students’ learning. Closed-book tests prioritize memorization over everything else, so a student may perform well just because they took the time to commit all the material to memory without actually understanding any of it. Application-based exam problems would require students to take thorough notes and also engage actively with the class material.   

With open-note tests and quizzes, both professors and students can continue to get the most out of a course with the least amount of stress in an already tumultuous time. Moreover, the policy allows students to spend more time taking care of their loved ones and their own health with less study time involved. For these main reasons, professors should make the switch to open note testing. 

Marlatt is a government freshman from Missouri City, Texas.