Nearly everything about this school year is new, from classes over Zoom to Canvas instead of Google Classroom. Unit exams are already hard enough to track and manage, and finals would only be harder for students this year.
During a regular school year, finals are the most stressful part of the year. The week before finals is full of students frantically checking grades and doing late work, while the week of finals consists of stress and fear for what’s to come. Every year, the hallways on finals week are filled with a heavy atmosphere of dread, students trudging to and from classes, weighed down by sleepless nights spent studying.
Are cumulative finals truly worth it? During an in person year, this question is unanswerable. There are pros and cons for both sides. Some students see finals as a way to cement what they’ve learned and prove they’ve been paying attention, while others simply see finals as another barrier that might stop them from getting the grade they deserve.
A lot of times, student’s opinions on finals are formed by their personal experiences. Students who don’t test well in general may prefer to have a unit exam instead of a cumulative final, while students who are good test takers yet not as on top of homework or projects may consider finals their saving grace.
In the “real world” that adults are so fond of referencing, there won’t be a closed note test. Adults aren’t told to solve math problems but without any resources. They aren’t asked to memorize chemical formulas and told they can’t look it up. Fact checking is actually a pretty important thing in the “real world,” so that people can make sure they’re avoiding mistakes that could cost them a job.
Putting the pros and cons of normal finals aside, let’s think about what finals over Zoom might look like. Hidden by a computer screen, students cheat on tests significantly more while taking tests online. They’ll talk to their friends over the phone, Google answers, or look at past notes and slideshows. Finals won’t be any different.
Surely if students are told to keep their cameras on, they won’t cheat, right?
Teachers can’t force students to have their cameras on, because the student may not have a stable enough connection to keep their camera on, or something may be wrong with the camera. if they are lying about these things, it’s extremely hard to prove. Not to mention that if they’re telling the truth, it can be embarrassing for the student to admit to having a low quality connection or computer.
And, if their camera does stay on, that doesn’t mean they can’t cheat. The teacher can’t be looking at every student at once, and the student’s entire surroundings can’t be seen from their little square. A student can open another window in their computer and it’ll look like they’re just looking at the test on the computer, or they can go on their phone and make it look like they’re writing something down.
Between finals not being a reflection of the real world, how easy it is to cheat, and the negative impact finals have on mental health, there really is no point in having finals over Zoom. All a cumulative final will accomplish is creating more stress than there already is in student’s lives. It won’t teach them anything, and it won’t prove anything.