Coronavirus: Concordia University students call for changes over online proctored webcam exams

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WATCH: With universities closed and the end of semester looming, many questions are being raised about how final exams will be carried out. Concordia University is suggesting having proctored exams, meaning students will write the exams while being watched live via webcam by professors. Global's Kwabena Oduro explains – Apr 1, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced the closures of schools in Quebec and universities have since moved classes online.

At Concordia University, exams have also been changed to an online format.

The university is proposing proctored exams, meaning students would write their finals with a teacher watching over them with a webcam.

For second-year sociology student Sophie Marie Bourassa, the thought of have proctored exams puts more weight on her shoulders.

“In light of the COVID-19 crisis, anxiety levels have been high, and the addition of a proctored exam adds unnecessary stress to this semester,” she said.

Bourassa is feeling confident in her ability to perform well in school, but she worries about her peers.

“I am a strong student so I’m able to fill in the gaps, but I worry for the students who are not able to fill in the gaps” she said.

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READ MORE: Quebec focuses on protecting seniors, limits regional travel as coronavirus deaths top 33

Bourassa isn’t the only who’s worried.

The student union is hearing various types of complaints, from privacy issues to challenges for students with children at home and who are sharing space with partners.

“There’s a huge amount of students concerned with the fact that the university is requesting access to their webcams,” said Patrick Quinn, Concordia student union member.

“There’s also the issue of students living in environments where they can’t concentrate because the environment is just not conducive,” he added.

The difference in time zones is another challenge.

In March, the university told students who come from abroad to return home because of the outbreak.

“Many students come from abroad, they might live five or 10 hours away and they would have to do an exam at a set time. That can negatively affect their performance on these exams,” Quinn said.

Students say the added stress of having to think about COVID-19, the uncertainly of their winter semester and proctored exams, all while taking care of their families is taking its toll.

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“I’m constantly worried about my dad and getting my dad sick, so that’s pretty much my main area of anxiety right now,” says Brigitte Papadakis, also a sociology student.

Papadakis is taking care of her dad, because just last year he almost passed away from the regular flu. Now she is struggling with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and her winter semester.

“I definitely feel like my panic disorder is back and I haven’t have full-blown panic attacks in years. I’m definitely having trouble taking care of myself, my physical self which perpetuates a vicious cycle,” she said.

READ MORE: Quebec coronavirus cases soar past 4,000 as medical equipment shortage looms

In a statement, Concordia University told Global News, “We are in the process of figuring how this will work for students and faculty and will have details shortly. It’s worth noting however that we estimate that only a small percentage of exams — less than 15 per cent — will need to be proctored and we have strongly encouraged faculty members to first look at other modes of assessments.

“We are also working on guidelines which recognize the uneven conditions facing students and will provide options for students if they are unable to write the exam.”

Students are still feeling uncertain about the idea and are calling for different ways to wrap up their winter semesters.

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“I think that open-book, take-home exams, essays would be a much better way of finishing the semester,” Bourassa said.

Students have started an online petition to convince Concordia to stop all proctored exams. The student union says it will keep pushing to find more suitable ways for student to finish their semesters.