As a result of COVID-19, Binghamton University had two finals weeks planned this semester: in-person final exams were to be distributed during Nov. 23 to Nov. 25 while remote final exams were planned to be distributed Dec. 7 to Dec. 11. However, due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus, all finals were moved remotely this semester.
BU reached the 100-case threshold for a two-week period set out by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Nov. 17, which resulted in BU moving all learning online for the remainder of the semester. BU President Harvey Stenger attributed the uptick in COVID-19 cases to the increased testing on campus. BU increased their testing in accommodation with SUNY’s system-wide policy that required students to test negative for COVID-19 prior to leaving for Thanksgiving break.
As students began to return home, there have been mixed reactions to having finals distributed online. For some this has posed a problem, while for others it has simplified the normally stressful finals week.
Joseph Vernice, a junior majoring in English, noted that taking finals remotely created problems for him, especially with professors not knowing how to use the technology effectively.
“In general, I’d say that I’m more stressed than usual compared to the past two years, due to a number of factors,” Vernice wrote in an email. “The biggest one just being technical issues — some of my professors still seemed to be getting used to using [MyCourses] to give us our exams, so there were several times that things went wrong that they were unable to fix. The worst of these being one of my professors attempting to give us more time on a test and accidentally ending it instead.”
In addition to this, Vernice explained that factors outside of his control, such as internet connection, have presented challenges throughout the semester.
“Because we are relying so much on Wi-Fi at school and at home, it is easy for a situation to arise where it is impossible to attend class,” Vernice wrote. “The Wi-Fi went out on several occasions at school, and, while I was at home, there was a storm on the day of one of my finals. This left me worrying about whether I would be able to take my test at all, adding to the stress of an already stressful test.”
Aneudys Germosen, a junior majoring in computer science, said he has been struggling to keep up with finals this semester, a problem he hasn’t had in the past.
“This finals week has been the worst one yet,” Germosen said. “There are noticeably less academic resources for me to use this time around.”
Ryan Marvin, a junior majoring in computer science, said he is preparing for finals differently than in the past semesters since many teachers are allowing students to use their notes during the exam.
“Finals being online has affected my preparation since I am preparing instead of spending a lot of time just studying my notes,” Marvin said. “I’m taking a lot more time to gather notes for easy access.”
Patrick Sullivan, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said this finals week was comparatively less stressful to other ones he has experienced, but he found preparing for his finals more challenging.
“This finals week has been less stressful than previous finals weeks, mainly because some of my professors have opted for final projects instead of a traditional final,” Sullivan wrote in an email. “Personally, I prefer to learn in person rather than in an online format. For that reason, I have had to prepare more than usual for the finals I have coming up.”
Students have been forced to adjust to online learning throughout the semester, which has affected Sullivan’s approach to finals and ending this semester.
“Essentially, having all of my classes online has made it difficult for me to pay attention as well as I would have if I was in a lecture hall or classroom environment,” Sullivan wrote. “Therefore, I have had to put in extra work to do well in all of my classes this semester.”
For Marvin, the semester being online has posed problems in terms of maintaining motivation to stay focused in class.
“My teachers have been helpful this semester, but overall my experience has been extremely poor, as I have very little motivation to succeed [and] do work in my classes,” Marvin said.
Germosen also said he felt a lack of motivation this semester, and the University could do more to assist students with online learning.
“The lack of breaks this semester definitely burned me out early,” Germosen said. “It seems that [BU] is refusing to acknowledge that we are human beings that are prone to get tired and/or lose motivation under these new conditions.”
Germosen said classes being held online this semester didn’t allow him to engage with the materials he was being taught as well as in person, which has caused problems for him this semester.
“The lack of in-person instruction in my classes has slowed down the rate at which I can digest the material being taught,” Germosen said. “This is the reality for not only myself but for many of my peers as well. The difficulty of our finals this year is the same level of difficulty as our finals from last year, yet the academic resources this year are comparatively scarce. The finals that we are taking do not seem to account for our current circumstances. Ultimately, this whole situation makes it harder to get decent grades on our finals and consequently our classes.”