Professors adjust finals to accommodate for remote learning in Fall Quarter


File illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

Some Northwestern professors are adjusting final exams to accomodate for remote learning.

Mayerli Constante, Reporter

Northwestern professors are adjusting their final examinations to better accommodate students to a remote quarter.

In English Prof. Kelly Wisecup’s “Alternative Americas: Science Fiction and Speculative Futures” class, group workshops will replace the drafts of final papers students are traditionally required to submit. Through these workshops, students can give and receive feedback on their papers before submission.

In previous years in her class, students would hand in drafts and adjust their paper based on constructive comments made by the professor, Wisecup said. This year, she is dividing the process into further steps in order to make it more manageable for students and to bring more structure onto the assignment.

Students are expected to write a seven- to eight-page research paper on a humanities topic of their choice, she said.

Wisecup’s goal is to create a supportive community despite the remote nature of her classroom and to ease the stress of students.

“Part of what I’m hoping to do is make sure that we support each other in these last stages,” Wisecup said. “We just think a lot about the kinds of pressures on students right now.”

In Math 220, Single Variable Differential Calculus, professors have elected to do open book exams, where students are allowed to use their previous homework, MyLab quizzes, and notes during the midterms and finals.

The chemistry department has gone in a different direction, and is administering closed notes finals. Students cannot create their own cheat sheet, unlike in previous years.

Weinberg freshman Charlie Sutcuoglu, who is taking Chemistry 171 and Math 220, said chemistry exams are shorter and cover less content. In contrast, their calculus final will cover more, but supplements this with the open note option.

“The calc exam definitely is more noticeably different relative to the in-person exam than the chemistry exams. I think it’s because of the calc class and exams being completely restructured,” Sutcuoglu said.

McCormick freshman Maria Fernandez said she thinks her chemistry final will be given in the same fashion as her midterm, where the majority of the questions are multiple choice. She said that she wishes her chemistry exams consisted of more short answer questions.

“The multiple choice part is a little unfair because it is 70 percent of our grade,” Fernandez said. “The open ended questions are where we show what we really know, and that’s only 30 percent.”

Despite some shortcomings in giving finals exams during remote learning, professors want to make it clear that they understand what students are going through.

“One thing I’ve been growing conviction for is how awesome my students are,” Wisecup said, “and what great work they’re doing in the midst of really trying circumstances.”

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