Poll shows Durham students prefer online exams despite return to regular teaching

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Durham University students find the online exam format less stressful than regular examinations, according to a poll conducted by Durham Polling for Palatinate.

51% of the 271 respondents believed online exams give students a better opportunity to demonstrate academic ability, and a majority would welcome the continuation of the online exam format.

The survey, conducted at the end of the academic year, also revealed that the type of subject studied was indicative of how stressful students found the new exams, with science students reporting greater levels of stress than humanities students. Overall, a majority opposed the return to the ‘traditional’ in-person exam format and supported the continuation of the online arrangement for the remainder of their degree.

Support for the reintroduction to face-to-face teaching was overwhelming, with 89% of respondents agreeing that they were looking forward to its return in the new year.

Students were asked to respond to the question: ‘”On a scale of 1-10, how stressful do you find the traditional in-person exam format?”, and then asked the same question for the “new online exam format”. The results showed that Durham students have felt reduced stress under the new format, with the average stress rating of ‘traditional’ exams being 7.8/10, compared to 6.6/10 for the online exams. 

Humanities students reported larger decreases in stress between the two exam formats, with students doing degrees like Anthropology and Geography having an average stress rating reduction of 4 and 2.1 respectively. Conversely, respondents doing Biology degrees had only a 1.7 reduction, and Chemistry students reported a stress increase of 0.3 for online exams. The worst subject in this area was Mathematics, whose students reported a 1.8 stress increase for online exams. 

Support for the reintroduction to face-to-face teaching was overwhelming, with 89% of respondents agreeing that they were looking forward to its return in the new year, 68% of which strongly agreed with the statement.

Just 31.4% of respondents wished to see the return of traditional exams

In-person exam formats did not receive the same support. 56.6% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “I would like all examinations to return to an in-person, timed, format”, while 41% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement “I would welcome the continuation of this year’s online exam format for the remainder of my degree”. This is compared to just 31.4% who wished to see the return of traditional exams, and 32% who disagreed or strongly disagreed with the continuation of online exams going forward.

The online examinations process was reintroduced for last year’s exams following an announcement in December, which outlined a stricter time period of 24 hours, rather than the 48-hour period used in the policy’s first run in the 2019-20 academic year. This was also accompanied by a safety net to replace the No Detriment Policy, a change that required students to perform better in examinations in order to pass modules despite conditions.

Image: Durham University

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