Although Greater Sudbury is currently a COVID-19 hotspot in Ontario, the three post-secondary institutions in the city say at least some of their exams will be held in-person, with COVID safety protocols in place.
Laurentian said in a written statement that in consultation with Public Health Sudbury & Districts, it has ”set up a framework to ensure that we are able to deliver in-person exams in a way that is safe for our students.
“While all students on campus are fully vaccinated, we have also reduced capacity of our exam hall, ensured physical distancing, and are instituting protocols that will safeguard our students,” said the statement.
“We have experienced very few cases of COVID-19 on campus (only 10 since September) and have had no active cases on campus in the last four weeks.”
Laurentian also posted a “exam checklist” on its website Dec. 7, giving students tips on how to stay safe while writing their exams. That checklist also said the exam hall (Laurentian’s gymnasium) will be at 30-per-cent capacity to ensure distancing.
Collège Boréal and Cambrian College have also confirmed at least some of their exams will be held in-person this semester, with COVID protocols in place.
Both colleges say that if the course was held online, then exams will also be held online.
A spokesperson for Boréal said in-person exams are held in individual classes (not in a gymnasium), and all classes are small.
Cambrian’s exams are “likely to be in the gym or a classroom, depending on the course, but all proper COVID protocols are being followed, such as wearing of masks (already required anyway) and physical distancing,” said a spokesperson for Cambrian.
There have been some posts to the anonymous online message board UMentioned Laurentian lately, critical of Laurentian University's decision to continue in-person exams amid the current COVID-19 situation in Greater Sudbury.
A person posting anonymously to the UMentioned site on Dec. 2 said this decision is “not just unsafe for students and faculty, but as a post-secondary institution (this decision) is reckless and unethical.”
Another anonymous poster to the UMentioned site on Dec. 8 referred to Public Health Sudbury’s decision this week to impose further public health restrictions and recommend best practices to avoid COVID-19 infections.
“So PHSD is recommending curbside pickups again for shopping yet we’re still doing unnecessary exams in person?” said the person posting on the site.
Laurentian University Students’ General Association president Eric Chappell said many exams have been moved out of the gymnasium, with professors given the option to supervise their own exams.
Speaking to the fear students may have, Chappell said some may be under the mistaken impression that they would be writing their exams in a full-to-capacity gymnasium.
But when he speaks to students about the COVID-19 protocols that are in place surrounding in-person exams, “it does quell a lot of the fear associated with it.”
The student leader said that “as much as students are very concerned about final exams, I do believe that the majority of students when it comes to classes really value their face-to-face delivery.”
Chappell actually brought forward a motion at the last Laurentian Senate meeting that relates to exams.
He wanted exams for all of Laurentian’s online courses to also be offered online. However, he said the motion was only adopted as an interim measure for the coming semester.
Some Laurentian professors were hesitant to make this a permanent measure because of concerns surrounding cheating. Chappell said a more extensive conversation is needed around online evaluation methods.
Chappell said one thing he’s continuing to push for is blended delivery options (in-person and virtual), so students can customize their education “based on their needs and wants.”