University of Alberta students’ foe from the winter term is deferred exams, brought by one problem: COVID-19.
No one likes to get sick right before an exam or two, but it is inevitable just as we are coming out of the pandemic. Deferrals bring out a lot of stress in a student, which limits their ability to get better and do their best. The added stress of the deferral process, however, does not need to be there. If the university streamlined and reformed the deferral process, students would be able to focus on getting better, rather than worrying about deferring their exams.
Like many students, I unfortunately had the pleasure of succumbing to COVID-19 and being put out of school until I was better. Had we still been in the term, it would have been fine. Unfortunately, the timing was not on my side as I got sick right in the midst of final exams.
Having COVID-19 during this period led to the issue of missing final exams and needing to get them deferred. Students who missed exams due to COVID-19 face the dread of getting deferrals approved while they sit at home sick, unable to do anything. I have dubbed this the “Deferrals Waiting Fiasco.”
However, the feelings that come with this chaotic situation can be minimized by optimizing the deferral application process.
When a student is going to university during a pandemic, getting sick is inevitable. By waiting days on end for the approval to be granted, the process of getting a deferral becomes a hassle. This contributes to the student feeling ignored and like the education they are paying for is not being taken seriously by the administration.
Deferrals bring out a lot of stress in a student. If anything, stress while being sick puts your body under more stress, extending the recovery time the individual needs to get better.
When I was sick, I became worried about my approval after hearing nothing for a couple of weeks. This did not help me get better on top of the stress of other exams that I still had to get myself ready for.
The application process should be simple. Go to the faculty page, find the form, fill it out, submit it, and wait a set amount of time before hearing the verdict of your form. This is how the process runs currently. The issue here, however, is waiting for the deferrals to be approved.
The U of A should have predicted that the number of deferrals would exponentially increase once they lifted the mask mandate. Of course, with the increase of students absent due to COVID-like symptoms, they should’ve prepared administration staff for the influx so that deferrals would be looked at and processed in a timely manner.
Two solutions that come to mind are to have a set turnaround time for submitted application forms and to change the setup of the application process so that it is easier on the advising staff of that faculty, such as having an interactive form rather than a Google Form.
Understandably, having a set turnaround time could prove to be a challenge due to budget cuts. The shortage in personnel could cause stress on staff due to the overwhelming number of deferrals coming in during finals. But the current wait time is unacceptable, and having a set turn-around time is a possible solution.
Another way to address the uncertainty of wait times is an interactive form. After submitting the Google Form with the current system, the only update you receive prior to the official decision on your deferral is an email saying that the form has been submitted. By utilizing an interactive form, students would be able to see live updates on their application process rather than radio silence.
A database or system for the forms could help advise staff with organizing the requests while also providing updates that students can see. A live form can then detail updates and have the option of adding more deferrals in case a student has a prolonged illness. The new system would simplify the process for both students and staff.
When it comes to deferred exams, no one likes them. With the stress that COVID-19 brings, there are constant shifts that need to be made, but these changes could also have the long term benefit of improving the way we do things.
At this current moment, I am still waiting to write one of my deferred exams. It is clear that the university needs to streamline and reform the deferral process. Rather than stressing out students, deferrals can then relieve the stress students face so they can take the time to get better and focus on that alone.