The first semester finals week for underclassmen took place from Jan. 13 through Jan. 15. Teachers were required to adapt to a fully-electronic environment, leading to several changes in the process. To ensure that everyone received a fair assessment, all Loyola students had to follow a set of protocols. Students had to join a Zoom call on a secondary device, such as a phone, and place it in an area that allowed the proctor to see the entire workspace. Proctorio, the testing integrity program, was reinstituted to help monitor exams; however, the microphone and camera system was not enabled.
Since the Academic Board and Faculty Senators are relatively unfamiliar with at-home final exams, they created an online testing environment that would allow students to feel comfortable when taking the test. Many teachers
Assistant Principal for Academics Robb Gorr said, “The Academic Board and Faculty Senators worked together to develop and communicate a plan that allowed for a fair and equitable testing environment. Admittedly, it is not the perfect test-taking setting but under the circumstances, the protocols put in place have been clear and effective.”
As teachers adapt to the new norm, they learned new ways to teach the curriculum. In doing so, they had to work much harder to meet the demands of the students. For example, teachers continued to promote collaboration between students through the use of Zoom breakout rooms.
Social Science Department Chair and teacher James Zucker said, “There are students who are thriving and others who are challenged. It appears that introverted students are doing very well in this environment because they are not distracted by other students. They can focus on their work and can participate in class discussions through Zoom chat, backchannels, or Google Docs. However, extroverted students are facing a number of challenges. They do need to have more engagement with other students and more direct engagement with teachers. This is because they need that energy to do well in their studies.”
Although the bond between students and teachers seemed strained due to the online setting, teachers continued to do a great job by sending students into breakout rooms so that the students could collaborate with each other to prepare for finals. In the breakout rooms, the students could converse and help each study as they would in a normal in-person study group.
Zucker stated, “I have heard that the work hours are much longer. This is due to the constant need to update our classroom materials and assignments. Also, we have to do far more grading since this is the only way to hold students accountable. And, there is a higher level of anxiety for teachers in trying to meet multiple student needs.”
To accommodate students that experienced testing issues, Loyola administered a “Conflicts” window that allowed these students to retake their test. Additionally, this exam window was used for students that had final exams for the same subject, such as two science classes. Although the first semester was strenuous, Loyola’s faculty and student body were prepared for this transition.
Junior Kalen Park said, “All of my teachers adjusted extremely well to the circumstances at hand. My finals went smoothly, and the testing environment felt very similar to finals from previous years. Finals week is so important for all students, and I was glad that the Loyola administration took the proper steps to ensure that testing was fair for all students.”