Rethinking our exam period
As we reach the end of the Fall term, and most of us have been or still are busy trying to complete our Fall term exam marking and final grades, you might not have time to reflect on this, but perhaps you might over the well-deserved holiday break.
The figure below shows the examination period for all Maclean’s ranked Ontario universities and their final exam period duration. You will recognize Ontario Tech University as the outlier at the bottom with only a 10-day examination period.
Pressure on Students
The University community knows that the exam period is a stressful time for all involved and we are all too willing to come up with de-stresser events such as handing out self-care kits, etc. These are not bad initiatives but an extension of the exam period would not only bring us in line with other institutions in the province, but also provide genuine much-needed relief to our students.
Pressure on Instructors
In addition to this short examination period, Ontario Tech also has the second shortest time period to submit final grades. This challenge is off loaded onto the instructors for the stated benefit to students, of reducing student stress and uncertainty during the holiday break.
Students and Professors need more time, not less
It now seems as though the administration is considering changing the standard exam duration from three-hours to two-hours in length, in order to fit exams into a fewer number of days. The rationale for this has not yet been made broadly apparent, but the past suggests the motivation.
A few years ago we switched to a 12-week term from the old 13-week term. Several rationales were put forward for this, including allowing for the possible introduction of a Fall term reading week – which happened first as a couple of “co-curricular days” and this year as a full reading week that includes the Thanksgiving Monday holiday – in order to reduce student stress. One other issue that the 12-week term was meant to address was that once every few years the term starts late – because of when Labour Day lands on the calendar – and based on the 13-week term, examination period and final grades policy meant that the grades would be released after the holiday closure that starts on December 25th, i.e. in January.
It is very interesting that this possible change in exam duration is coming when next year is the latest possible start to the term – Labour Day 2020 is September 7th. Are we seriously considering a major academic change to our examination policy for this reason, when many other Ontario universities have long accepted that students can wait until January for their final grades and most allow at least a full week for instructors to submit their final grades?