Students demand online exams amid wave of Covid-19 cases

Students are demanding more online exams amid safety concerns over exam hall reopening due to a spate of Covid-19 cases.

Most universities are planning a combination of face-to-face exams and online assessments next month for the first time in two years.

However, some sororities are advocating canceling in-person exams or giving students the right to postpone exams if forced to restrict their movement.

Irish Union of Students’ vice-president Megan O’Connor warned of a “hasty return to personal examinations”.

“Colleges can’t possibly expect students to do their best in an entirely new, high-risk environment,” she said.

She called on universities to offer deferred or alternative assessment options.

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union is pushing for more online and open book exams in light of the “serious potential public health risk posed by students unnecessarily visiting exam centers”.

In addition, Trinity’s Graduate Students’ Union and Students4Change have jointly called on the university to cancel the personal exams altogether.

A Trinity spokeswoman said just under half of exams this year will take place in person at venues such as the RDS Simmonscourt, which will operate at 60 percent capacity.

In a message to students, the vice-provost of the university says Orla Sheils said it was working on emergency plans in case public health guidelines change and it is not allowed to deliver in-person exams.

In the meantime, Ms Sheils said anyone affected by Covid who is unable to take exams can retake them later in December or early in the new year.

“We will also look at the capacity on campus for students who have problems with WiFi at home and are asked to take online exams,” she says.

At UCD, the university plans a combination of online and face-to-face exams. Students are advised not to attend face-to-face exams if they have cold symptoms or have been advised to limit their movement.

In a message to staff and students, Prof Mark Rogers said alternative or online assessments will be provided in the new year for anyone unable to attend their exams.

NUI Galway has also advised students that it will be flexible in granting deferments if they cannot come to campus for in-person exams next month.

“We are very aware of the impact Covid-19 may have on some students, along with the unpredictability of the current public health situation, and with that in mind we will be flexible in granting deferments,” a spokesperson said.

“For students who are vulnerable, the university will make reasonable provisions to facilitate assessment.”

University of Limerick said most of its undergraduate modules have moved to continuous assessment and do not require end-of-semester exams.

“If students are unable to attend face-to-face exams, there are procedures to deal with this,” a spokesperson said.

UCC said the arrangements for its exams are still under consideration and it plans to communicate them directly to the students when they are completed.

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