The Pros & Cons of Taking Midterms Online

When it was announced that class would be online, almost every student was ecstatic that there would be no more long walks to lecture halls, no more having to squeeze through tight spaces for the middle seat, and no more having to show up to class in general. I was part of this majority that was happy that classes would be online. However, as the weeks of Spring quarter go by, I have realized that online classes seem to actually be more difficult. A quarter system is already fast-paced, but having it online makes it seem even faster. Midterm season may just be showing us how the online platform has been treating us, whether it be good or bad.

Test Taking RepOf course, there are positives to taking midterms online. In general, before the midterm, there are accessible resources online that can help students prepare. One of these resources may be office hours. It is easy to just get up from bed, grab your laptop and log onto Zoom to join office hours and ask your professor or teaching assistant questions for clarification. With the availability of office hours over Zoom, questions can get answered quickly, and students won’t feel judged by the questions they ask because of their ability to turn off their video camera. Some midterms may even be open-note due to the online circumstances. Although the questions may be harder, it allows students to refer back to their notes when the exams may be focusing more on conceptual material rather than content-based questions. Additionally, if the midterm is multiple choice, students no longer have to spend those extra minutes filling in bubbles on the scantron, nor do they have to fear skipping a line and bubbling in the wrong answers for all of the questions thereafter. Or, if the midterm is a timed writing assignment, it may be faster to type on a computer than writing by hand.

However, despite the pros that online midterms offer, there are also cons. One negative aspect of taking midterms online is having to find a quiet space to take the midterm. Not everyone has their own room or lives in a home that is quiet enough. Siblings, parents and other relatives may be constantly making noise, which may distract students from fully immersing themselves in the exam. Moreover, it may also be harder to focus on the midterm itself when students are just staring at their laptop screens. Personally, I prefer doing an assignment on paper because I can focus better when the text is in front of me in the physical format. Another con for online midterms is that there may be more pressure for students to finish the exam in the allotted time. For me, when I see a timer on my laptop screen that starts to count down from ten minutes, I get anxious and try to finish the last questions. This feature makes it harder to properly answer the questions when I am wasting my time worrying about finishing in general. Furthermore, there may be technical problems while taking the midterm, which may further stress students. For example, a student’s internet connection may not be working. Or, if students have to take pictures of their exam and upload it onto a grading platform in an allotted time, it may be a disadvantage for students without scanners and for those who also have technical difficulties while uploading their files.

So, online midterms can be a good or bad thing. Of course, having an online quarter means more flexibility in terms of waking up, doing assignments, and going to lecture for the most part. However, there are also negative aspects that we must consider, such as technical difficulties and distractions. With online midterms, you never know what's going to happen. The format is still new for everyone, so we all just have to do the best that we can. Maybe you like taking online midterms or maybe you they are not for you. Whichever your preference, one thing is for sure: after experiencing an online midterm season, we better be preparing ourselves for an online finals season as well.