Although many students may argue that testing online is a more conducive environment to their success, I find the home-testing environment to be full of new challenges and distractions. The past few weeks have been flooded with tests, as teachers squeeze in the last few assessments and projects before winter break. Online assessments have become even more stressful because of printer and scanner issues, the distractions of my home, and the inability to communicate questions with my teachers during exams.
I find it very difficult to focus on assessments at home. When I’m taking an exam or participating in any academic activity, I need absolute silence. I thrive in a quiet environment; it allows me to focus and understand the work on a deeper level. Although it’s usually quiet at my house, it can be hard to remain focused when there are so many distractions. From my parents asking me what I want for lunch to my sister Zooming others in her room, disturbances fluster me during exams. Also, during back-to-back classes, it can be challenging to clean up my workspace from the past class and get ready for the next class. The absence of walking from one class to another makes it harder for me to adjust to and prepare for the next task at hand.
Another difficulty I have experienced several times during in-class assessments is printer issues. Even though I have a working printer at home, there was one instance where my printer did not print the last page of my test. As I sat aimlessly wondering why none of my peers had completed their test, I communicated via the chat feature on Zoom with my teacher and asked how many pages the test was supposed to be. When I received the response of “five pages,” a wave of worry overcame me. I realized how much time I wasted and how little time was left to complete the exam. Although I was able to print the remaining page, this extra pressure made the experience much more nerve-wracking. Additionally, several times after completing an exam, I had trouble scanning the assessment and sending it to my teachers.
Lastly, one of the greatest challenges I’ve confronted is the new way students must communicate questions and confusion about an assessment to a teacher. During in-person learning, it is easy to clarify a question about test material by raising your hand, but now it takes a few minutes to ask your question through the Zoom chat feature. Although a few minutes of waiting does not seem like much, in actuality, two to three minutes feels like forever during a test. The butterflies in your stomach during these anxiety-filled moments can make a test that you thought you were ready for turn into a test you are not.
At school, my brain is constantly in work mode. At home, I have trouble concentrating at the same level. Assessments feel more like homework assignments, and the great importance of grades, especially as we approach the end of the first semester, has made testing an even more painful task.
As we approach winter break, I am hopeful that there might be an easier approach to taking assessments during our remote period for students like me who find this environment stressful. Although I understand the limited options our teachers have when it comes to testing, some measures can be put in place to help all students in the community. Even if we made tests 40 minutes instead of 45 minutes, this extra five minutes would give a cushion for technology issues, questions, and scanning time.
The flexibility to take an assessment on your own time would be beneficial. This would allow every student to take these important exams when they are best focused. I know I concentrate best in the morning when no one is up, and I have the apartment to myself. For me, this time would be most ideal since I could simply focus on the task at hand rather than worry about all of the potential distractions. Even if students are able to go into a proctored Zoom room during a time from A-H periods, this flexibility would allow everyone to do their best and be successful during this unconventional year. I have found that a minute of silence between classes to be helpful since the break gives my mind the opportunity to relax and refocus. If these two approaches were implemented into the HM 2.0 assessment plan, I think many students would have a more positive approach to this already stressful situation.
Testing environments online ought to be changed