As students, most of what we do these days is confined to the digital realm. We read our books from PDFs, and we are assigned essays based on information we are given through screens, which we will then write out on a computer, and we’ll eventually submit online on the digital learning platform Canvas, the same platform where we can check our course progression and grades on. Why is it then that in this online world of learning every couple of exams the old pieces of paper get trotted out and the ballpoint pens dusted off? Wouldn’t the UvA do better to go fully digital? Perhaps helping save some trees and leveling the playing field for all its students along the way.
I suffer from Developmental Coordination Disorder, or, as it’s commonly known, Dyspraxia. Dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired coordination of physical movements as a result of the brain’s commands not being accurately transmitted to the body. As a result of this, my handwriting can be best described as the dying flails of a small spider that has just crawled from a pot of ink onto a sheet of paper. This doesn’t tend to bother me much since I get to take most of my exams on laptops. Much to my surprise however my very last exam last year had to be taken in person on paper, an unprecedented situation. This led to a last-minute scramble in order to get a laptop for the exam. After approximately 15 emails, an hour spent in a phone queue with no answer, and an ‘official hearing on my case by the exam board’ I got to have my laptop. A laptop I then had to get at the Turfdraagster Pand, cycle 8.5 kilometers to the Science Park halls with, almost couldn’t get working and afterward had to deliver 8.5 kilometers back to where I got it from before the place shut at 16:00- my exam ended at 15:30.
Why must it all be so hard? Why can’t the UvA just fully digitalize and provide laptops for everyone? First of all, this would level the playing field. I’m a special case but even so, not all abled students have very legible handwriting or can write as fast as expected of them. By going digital the students held back by this will be able to complete the exams much easier than before. Secondly, as of writing this my first-year history bachelor’s program has about 115 students in it. The average amount of pieces of paper used for the exam was estimated to be 4; 4*115= 460 pieces of paper. Now, if all tests and exams would have been unimpeded by the pandemic this year that would roughly amount to 3680 pieces of paper for my first-year group of students alone. If this is just one year of one bachelor in one faculty just think of the amount of paper used by the UvA’s exams as a whole how many trees could we save by going fully digital? Finally, what’s stopping the UvA when the facilities are already in place? I’ve taken exams in person on laptops, the UvA has hundreds of the bloody things. Is this some sort of attempt to preserve the dying art of penmanship?
So the resources are there, we’d be helping the environment a bit more than we currently are, and in a rare departure from the UvA’s standard exam policies, this change might even benefit students. I say abandon the piece of paper and go fully digital- it might even save a student with a condition that affects their writing from going through the 12 labors of the UvA’s service desk.