Since I moved back home during this COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve really struggled to find the positives in my situation. At first, I felt an overwhelming sense of fear and panic when I looked at all my updated syllabuses — now I was expected to do all the work that came with college without any of the freedom, independence and outside activities I was used to.
But there was a small hope for me: all my professors announced our exams and quizzes would now be open-note. It makes sense. It’s much more difficult for professors to control whether or not students cheat when they’re at home, so they might as well just embrace it.
I’ve come to realize that open-note testing is just as legitimate as closed-note exams, even for in-person courses. I believe University of Nebraska-Lincoln professors should seriously consider keeping these open-note test policies when we come back to campus.
The main argument against open-note tests is that they lead to higher grades with less effort and learning on the part of the students.
The results of open-note and cheat sheet tests are also similar because the disposition and motivation of the individual student is the strongest indicator of what grade they will receive, no matter what format the test is administered in.
As far as my personal experience with open-note tests in my online classes, my grades have only improved about two or four points per quiz or exam. In fact, in one of my classes, my score for the second exam was eight points lower than my first exam grade.
There’s no noticeable difference between the way I tested in person versus at my house except for the comfort level that comes with being able to take tests in my bed and double-check my answers.
Studies have found that although open-note testing does not produce a notable increase in scores, students maintain their levels of motivation for the class while levels of stress decrease. This mirrors the experience I’ve had with online open-note tests.
A significant percentage of college students report either having a mental illness or suffering from chronic stress, which can lead to issues in mental, physical and emotional health. Our university knows this, and it takes steps to prevent and mitigate student stress through Counseling and Psychological Services and Big Red Resilience.
The problem with relying solely on CAPS to combat school-related anxiety is it is focused on dealing with stress after it manifests instead of proactively creating ways to eliminate stress. UNL professors can make a difference in their students’ lives by creating open-note tests that have the potential to eliminate the source of stress before it becomes a larger issue.
Many professors have also amended their courses to make them easier and more manageable in these difficult times. However, this global crisis isn’t going to be resolved any time soon, because the anxiety, stress and hopelessness that people feel now is the way many students with mental illnesses feel on a daily basis.
The stress these tests cause is not beneficial for students in the long run because undergraduate testing and exam systems do not simulate the procedures of any professional environment.
Medical and law schools across the country are considering or have already implemented an open-book testing policy. Closed-book, multiple-choice exams do not reflect the subjectivity, nuance and deeper understanding that is necessary for nearly every profession.
Every college’s goal should be to prepare students for the professional world outside of college as well as helping students balance their stress. Open-note testing provides a way to do that without any impact on how much students learn, so there’s no reason that professors shouldn’t seriously consider switching to open-note tests for the fall semester and beyond.
Sydney Miller is a sophomore psychology major. Reach them at email@example.com.