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Dealing with a pandemic shouldn't be the reason students' grades tank.

With the spring semester now over, students have faced final exams through online software. Although this is a new challenge brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have stayed strong and finished their courses with ease. However, some students might have struggled with completing their exams due to the fact that their classes were held through online forums such as Canvas or Zoom. 

Certain students are able to achieve standard grades on their final projects and exams when the classes are in person because of the ability to reach out to their professors or fellow classmates for help with studying. With interaction being limited to only online contact, students may not have gotten the grades they were hoping to receive. What makes it harder is that professors don’t always understand this problem and grade students to the same degree as they would if classes were still held in-person. 

There are many benefits that come with having final exams take place online, one being that some professors allowed their students to use the notes that they’ve taken throughout the semester. This helped many students with their finals because they may not have the best memorization skills and were able to apply the notes they’d taken so they could receive a good grade. However, when exams are open-note, the questions are often formulated in a way that makes them more difficult than exams without the ability to use notes. While this makes sense for a normal open-note exam, it’s unfair after a pandemic and a semester of change and online learning. 

One way that professors could ease the stress that students may have when taking an online final is curving the grade on questions that students didn’t do well on. Although many professors do this and help students receive better grades, some professors don’t curve due to various reasons. During a time where students are unable to receive in-person help, this makes it harder for students to achieve the best grade that they can. 

As final grades are sent to concerned students, it's easy to say that these grades can be relieving or defeating for different people. With the way that classes were taught during the second half of the semester, some students weren’t affected by this change, while others struggled to finish their classes with good grades. That being said, professors who’ve shown sympathy with how they grade their final exams and projects are greatly appreciated by many. 

The professors who didn’t grade their finals leniently should understand that some students aren’t able to learn efficiently through online resources and need an extra boost of help, and they hopefully will gain an understanding from this if their class grades aren’t as high as previous years. 

While the fate of the upcoming fall semester is still uncertain, professors should reflect and learn how to better shape their classes and grading for online content. This past semester challenged both students and professors academically, so students shouldn’t be punished if their exams and projects aren’t to the best of their ability. Hopefully, professors will learn from the difficulties of online classes and be able to provide their students with a fair learning experience. 

Kylee Toland is a sophomore media arts and design major. You can contact Kylee at tolandkm@dukes.jmu.edu.