Final exams: Four things to think about

This message to all faculty and staff has been approved by Janet Kistner, Vice President for Faculty Development and Advancement.

Dear Colleagues,

Finally – we’re in the home stretch of this very challenging semester. Just one week of classes left and then on to Finals Week!

Now that Finals Week is almost upon us, I want to address some questions that have been raised about applying the university’s final exam policy to our current semester. As we do every semester, my office recently distributed the annual “Undergraduate Final Examination Policy” memo. Much of the final exam policy addresses scheduling exams, largely for our face-to-face classes, with the goal of protecting students from having to take too many exams in too short a time period. Now that we are all teaching remotely, most sections of the policy are not relevant this semester. The most relevant part of the policy for this semester is the section on “Undergraduate Distance Learning Exams.” Still, due to the unavailability of testing centers, along with realistic concerns about students’ access to reliable internet access and other tools needed to complete projects and exams, greater flexibility is needed during this semester’s final exam week. Last week’s “Tips” from the FSU Center for the Advancement of Teaching offer helpful guidance, Tips for Finals, on how best to assess students’ learning in this trying semester.

Four points I want to emphasize as we head into finals:

  1. Instructors set exam administration windows within Final Exam week

Our policy gives instructors of Distance Learning courses the prerogative to set the window during which a final exam is administered (within Final Exam Week). In a previous communication, we asked instructors to try to schedule the exam administration “window” close to the originally scheduled exam times (to prevent overlap with other exams or prevent students being slammed with lots of exams around the same time) but this is not a requirement. The decision for setting the window of exam administration (within exam week) is left to instructors. Instructors may – and should – expand these windows to accommodate students in different time zones or in difficult circumstances. Another option is to offer multiple windows during the week.

  1. Accommodating students

Tests, projects, or other activities requiring access to systems such as Honorlock or myFSUVlab may be difficult for some students to complete or put them at a disadvantage. For example, we continue to receive reports of students who do not have a webcam or other equipment necessary for online proctoring, despite the university’s efforts to make this equipment available broadly. Please be prepared to offer a means of accommodating students who might not have the equipment or resources necessary for completing assignments or for taking remotely proctored exams, perhaps by providing alternate assessments or, in the worst case, Incompletes grades.

  1. Provide practice opportunities

More than ever, students need a clear sense of what they’re expected to demonstrate or accomplish, and practice to help them prepare. They also need some practice with any new tools or equipment they will need to use to take exams or complete their assignments. If your final assessment requires use of new tools and equipment, please offer opportunities for students to practice prior to exam week.

  1. Communication is key

As the semester draws to a close, this is a good time to remind students about your expectations and due dates for their final assignments and/or exams. Don’t hesitate to “repeat yourself.” This is a very good time to be intentionally redundant and to communicate with your students through multiple channels of communication.

Thank you for all that you are doing in support of our students.

Stay safe and healthy,

Janet Kistner
Vice President for Faculty Development and Advancement