Student perspective: Dealing with online, proctored exams for the first time

Emma, the author of the blog postby Emma Ford, Vet student and Bristol Futures Advocate

But wait, what are proctored exams? 

A proctored exam is a timed exam that is invigilated via software that has access to your camera, microphone, and screen. They aim to prevent cheating during online exams without in person invigilators present.

After doing in person exams my whole academic life, I was really worried about the sudden change to online proctored exams.

I had no idea what a proctored exam was, and the many misconceptions around the time about it just added onto the anxiety. These included “if you look away from the screen for more than twenty seconds you will automatically fail” and “if they can hear any sounds while you’re taking the exam, it’s an automatic failure”, etc. I responded to this by taking every measure possible to ensure that no red flags would be triggered during my exam. I covered everything on my walls, I put signs all around my house saying, “exam in process”, and on our front door, asking my housemates and potential visitors to be quiet. Yet still, despite all these measures, it was only until I got my exam results back that I could finally relax that I had not somehow been mistakenly flagged for cheating. However, now as a proctored exam “survivor”, I can happily say that these proctored exams are really nothing to worry about! As long as you are following the rules, and you take your exams honestly, your exam process should go smoothly.

My current understanding is that any unexpected audio or visuals recorded are flagged by the computer programme, but then they are manually inspected by an actual human being. So, even if your exam gets “flagged”, it does not necessarily mean it will result in a failure, and as long as the “flagged” situation was nothing suspicious, the flag has no detriment to you or to your score.

One of my friend’s flatmates were being loud when she was taking her exam, and she had to get up from her laptop, and yell from her door for her flatmates to be quieter. In one of my exams, I had a postman start knocking vigorously on my window because no one had answered the doorbell to collect their post. I imagine these situations resulted in our exams being flagged but would have very quickly been disregarded as just unfortunate incidents as soon as they were watched by an actual person.

I hope this has eased your mind about proctored exams but if you do have any questions about the rules or technicalities of your exams, I strongly advise you to ask your faculty administration, as it will most likely just ease your mind! Good luck on your exams!

Student perspective: Study Skills – Your Studying Companion

Photo of Iskandar, the author of the postby Iskandar Bin Suhaimi, Bristol Futures Advocate

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t panic. Even if your winter break was naff and you didn’t get much studying done, there’s still time. Perhaps you just barely managed to pull through the assessment period, and now you have a massive backlog of revision to handle while also juggling term-time work. Why don’t you head on to the Study Skills website on Blackboard and you may find some tricks at your disposal.

Cartoon character Hey Arnold performing a magic trick
Credits: @nicksplat.com / Giphy

Managing your time

First, a schedule. You would likely want to identify your tasks and plan out how you are going to get back on track. Head on over to the Study Skills tab on Blackboard and click on ‘Time management’ under Online Resources. From time management apps to schedule analyses, I’m positive you’ll find something handy.

Talking it out

You know what you want to do, now to actually go about it. If you’re unsure how to proceed, I suggest booking onto a Drop-In with a friendly student advocate. Once you book in, you can relay any questions or concerns you have about your studies and they can direct you to various useful resources such as subject librarians, the Centre for Academic Language and Development, and the Student Wellbeing Service – all tailored to your needs. Besides being specifically trained to signpost you to the University’s services, they can also be equally fun to chat with as well (just don’t ask us to work on your essays please)!

Getting things done

A few essays here, a coursework there, and a research project to finally give attention to. The Study Skills’ online resources tab is jam-packed with useful tips from critical writing to exam tips – all at your fingertips (excuse the bad joke)! For some writing practice, you can also book on to a weekly Wordsmiths workshop where you can hone your academic writing with zero judgement! Once you’re done with a draft, it might also be prudent to book a slot with one of our specially trained tutors who can assist in reviewing your work.

Naturally as a law student I may a bit biased towards essay-based resources, but Study Skills also run a Maths and Statistics club, Coding club and other ad hoc workshops you may find useful; so keep an eye out for them!

A conducive ecosystem

You’ve got your tools, you’re cracking on, and everything is going great isn’t it? Until you realise that studying alone can be isolating at times. What’s more, you may find that the new blended learning approach may not provide as many contact hours as you were used to. The library could be an option, but not if you’re studying remotely and even then you can’t communicate with people.

Under these circumstances, might I suggest booking onto an Online Study Lounge? This Study Skills initiative provides a space to study with other people with a scattering of interesting conversations and activities throughout, including an opportunity to have some structure to your day which if you’re like me, is much needed.

All best

As a fellow student trying to stay on top of things, I hope this article has proved useful! Study Skills is part of a larger framework called Bristol Futures that also includes the Bristol Plus Award, the PDProject, and a lot more. While I encourage you to explore what’s on offer, remember that your friends and/or family are always just within reach if you ever need extra support 😊

Goodluck!

 

 

 

Student perspective: Disconnecting and reconnecting

by Beth Robinson, Bristol Futures Advocate

When brainstorming solutions to feeling isolated, a friend mentioned the word ‘disconnected’ to describe their current state whilst in isolation. It resonated, both in that it’s a powerful word, but also one which also has many interpretations. So, here’s some ways you can reconnect whilst in isolation, to help you study more effectively:

1)    Reconnect with yourself. (because it turns out you don’t need a gap year for that, just government mandated quarantine). Something I’ve heard a lot is ‘my degree feels less valuable now.’ So, take the time to work out the value you find in it. The fact it will provide you with future opportunities? The enjoyment you’ve found from learning about the subject? Or even the friends you’ve made along the way. Take some time to reflect, and work out what is most important for you to focus on right now. And give meditation a go while you’re at it! If you find yourself in need of some support, rest assured the wellbeing service is still running, as is the Students’ Health Service (phone appointments).

2)    Reconnect with the online world. A struggle for many in isolation has been adjusting to a new way of living. I’ve been struggling with the idea of being online a lot, especially since I enjoy being in a library whilst working. But the University have set up a bunch of resources beyond online teaching for specific courses. My personal favourites have been the Global Lounge’s online language cafes, virtual dissertation writing retreats and events put on by societies (check out their Facebook pages or websites for all the info!) I find the combination of learning something new, getting motivated to write my diss., and having some down time an effective way to get online whilst not scrolling mindlessly through Instagram all day.

3)    Reconnect with friends. Talk to your course mates about what you’re all doing to stay focused, and have open conversations about how everyone’s getting on. Start an online revision club; come up with a new project; go along to an online society event together. That one person on your course you got on with in first year but gradually drifted from? I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. If you’re looking for a sign, this is it.

And as for disconnecting? Disconnect from any news sources which are making you feel anxious whilst trying to write or study and disconnect from using social media too much (cliché but true). Finally, disconnect with the idea that this part of your degree is any less valuable than any other parts. Because despite the chaos, this is a powerful opportunity to reconnect with a new way of learning.

What are some of the ways you intend to reconnect with the world throughout isolation? Leave some inspiration in the comments to connect with the next person who comes along.