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Exams in a pandemic: open book or virtual siege

Exams in a pandemic: open book or virtual siege

-When doing open book or internet evaluations, the teachers were not sure if the students had really incorporated the knowledge they presented in the test. So they began to implement an almost police control to apply the exams in the virtual modality.

-In the second installment of this series, we will learn about the experience of a health career student, who inevitably requires seeing patients. How did they solve it? Will the quality of these professionals be affected?

by Ana Isabel Gonzalez Vasquez


-Nobody expected what happened in the pandemic, we were not prepared for it, so it was all a trial and error process, both for teachers and students – tells us Oriana Fuenmayor, who at the time of the pandemic began her third year of odontology studies at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA)

-The UBA has a virtual campus where each subject has its space and from there you can do quizzes, exams, videos, comment forums. But when the pandemic began, what happened immediately was that they began to give us classes by zoom.

-The first problems that arose was that people did not turn on the camera, since we were receiving classes in a very personal space, which was our house. It happened that sometimes even some people could be listening to the class in their pajamas from bed. Then they began to force us to turn on the camera so that there could be some interaction, and the teacher could realize if we were distracted – Oriana tells us.

-In short, if one did not pay attention, the victim would be oneself, so that responsibility fell on each one of us. Also, you were at home with a lot of comfort and stimuli around you and that made it difficult to concentrate. We were confined to the house, our heads were anywhere. For example, I am a person who is easily distracted, so this situation affected me a lot.

Other of the memories that this student shared with us about her experience of distance classes during the pandemic have to do with the fact that many students, like her, shared an apartment with another student who was in the same circumstances, which meant that they had to look for how to locate themselves in the available space in the house so as not to interfere with each other.

-There were many uncomfortable situations, for example, the teacher asked a question and no one answered, because no one felt the need to do so because the teacher was not watching us, everyone was doing their own things, the class did not flow well at all.

How to effectively evaluate?

The issue of evaluations became a very sensitive issue during the pandemic.

-At the beginning, they gave us online exams in which we had a lot of resources in front: books, the internet. Clearly, if we wanted to look for the answers to the exam in those tools, we would look for them, and if we wanted to ask our classmates on WhatsApp during the exam, we could also do it – Oriana tells us.

So the teachers were not sure if the students had incorporated that knowledge or if they had simply copied it during the exam.

-This resulted in two modalities: the first was that they began to apply unattainable exams to us, they asked us to develop very long topics, which was impossible to do in the duration of the exam. I remember one in which I was writing the three hours of the exam and I couldn’t complete it, not because I didn’t know how, but because it was impossible to finish it in that time, too complex, it was a very long development exam.

-The other modality was that they began to demand that by the time we take the exam we had to have two cameras, we had to previously record the entire room where we were going to give the exam, that is, we connected to a zoom session, and we had to show both the teachers and the classmates the room where we were going to take the exam to show that we were alone.

-We had to have a camera in front of us and another from behind during the entire exam, so that they could see that we were not copying from anywhere. Generally one had the camera of the computer and the one of the telephone, but perhaps there were people who did not have them, in addition one had to have a stable internet connection.

-They also gave us less time to take the exam. In the face-to-face modality they gave us an hour and a half and during the pandemic they gave us only half an hour for this type of exam and they made us have the microphones on. Then you could hear the dogs barking, and there were people who didn’t live alone so you could hear babies crying, moms cooking or whatever because we couldn’t mute the computer microphones so the teachers could make sure there was no one telling us the answers.

Resuming the clinics

-During the pandemic, the life of the faculty had been paralyzed. I had spent at least two years in college before the pandemic and that is why I already had my group of friends, but those who were just entering college that year, and had only two weeks of class before the pandemic, had to spend studying alone throughout the pandemic, without having a reference group to seek support, as happened to a friend of mine – recalls Oriana.

-Now that the pandemic is over, we are left in a hybrid system. The clinics were first activated for us, but the theoretical subjects were still online. My career has a great workload. We normally have classes every day from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. So now we have some online subjects and other face-to-face ones, one after the other. You don’t live next door to the college, so sometimes it’s impossible to get to the next class.

-I was able to solve it because my brother lives in Recoleta near the university. So I would go to his house from 8 in the morning, I would attend my online classes from his house and that way I would have time to be at the clinic at the faculty at 1, after noon. But not everyone could do that, there are people who live in the great Buenos Aires, who in no way were going to be able to get to class on time.

Practice with patients

Practices with patients are essential in the training of health professionals. And this aspect was the one that was most affected during the pandemic, and the one that left the most things to be resolved, since there was a significant delay.

-As there was a delay in the dynamics of the clinics, now that we are one hundred percent in face-to-face mode, in our time range which is from 8 to 12 and from 1 to 17, and sometimes even at night from 18 to 22, we use all those hours for clinics.

-It also happened that some students who were a year ahead decided to take a sabbatical year due to the pandemic, and then they stayed a year behind. On the other hand, during the pandemic there was not much filter in the promotion, so many people approved. All this led to the fact that now we are many more in the clinics. The clinics before the pandemic were about 30 people and now they are up to 80 people. Now we have to share the dental chair with many more colleagues, and we have to see patients every 15 days and not every week as it was before.

-Another measure that was implemented to correct this situation was that, as the teachers realized that there are a series of online tools that are very good, they decided to dedicate all the class hours during the week to the clinics. The theoretical part is uploaded to the virtual campus, and one studies it according to the time available. These activities are also mandatory, and some even have a time limit to do them.

-So taking the degree is now demanding a double workload from us. This becomes extremely difficult, since many of us also work and we must also attend to the other aspects of our lives. In addition, there were subjects that we could not take during the pandemic, which resulted in a year behind in the degree.

So, even though the pandemic has passed and face-to-face education has returned, in many careers such as the health ones, all this dynamic left sequels that have not yet been resolved and that lead us to reflect on whether the students who had lived this experience has being trained with the same thoroughness and quality as those who studied before the pandemic.

On the other hand, perhaps these students of the pandemic have strengthened other skills such as time management, organization, and perseverance.

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