COCC instructors explore ways to adapt midterms online

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(Luke Reynolds/The Broadside)

As Central Oregon Community College students pass the halfway point of the semester, many have been preparing for midterms.

However due to the switch to remote learning at the start of spring term, midterms have been hard on students as well as the instructors.

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“I decided to make all of my midterms take-home, which would not be my normal approach for the classes I’m teaching this term” said Jessica Giglio, who is an instructor in the math department.

Giglio feels that it was challenging to rewrite open notes tests for her classes. This was because it was hard to find the appropriate level of difficulty for the students who really understood the core concepts of each class.

However with a more lenient test environment Giglio has created some workarounds to adapt to the online format.

“I’m adding more application-based problems but still need to assess the ability to perform some basic techniques. That’s why I am having all my students sign a document saying that they understand what resources they can use, and that they are aware I may contact them through Zoom to have them explain their work, or work through a similar problem” said Giglio.

While Giglio feels optimistic that this will deter students from using information from sources they do not understand, she will contact them if warranted.

Giglio has also adapted her courses in other ways, such as making Zoom class meetings optional.

“I’m glad I decided to do the optional Zoom sessions, since plenty of students attend, and they’re productive. I’ve never made videos before, but they seem to be working fine. Overall, it’s going about as smoothly as I could have hoped” said Giglio.

So far Giglio has used these Zoom meetings to answer questions students may have on homework or provide extra insight into class material.

The core of the material for each course has been provided through videos and assigned readings. However, depending on the class the transition has been easier for some than others.

“On one hand, it’s going smoother than anticipated; I’ve been surprised at how capable the students and the technology are. On the other hand, it’s not nearly as engaging or fun as a “real” classroom. I miss the spontaneous class discussions and big white boards to scrawl notes on” said Owen Murphy, an instructor at COCC.

Murphy teaches a variety of courses relating to Health & Human Performance (HHP). These subjects include Health and Fitness, Human Psychology and Human Sexuality.

“I’m not the most computer-savvy guy, so transitioning classes and exams online has been really time intensive — and frustrating when things don’t go right”

Murphy has done his best so far to create relevant discussions, assignments and exams but due to remote learning, it is up to the students to engage with coursework. Murphy also acknowledged that while students aren’t facing an ideal environment to learn in, he is grateful that everyone is doing what they can.

“Hang in there, everybody. Get outside if you can, find some time to decompress, be compassionate, and stay healthy!”

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