With final exams in progress at Qatar University (QU) during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, some students are managing reasonably well while others have valid concerns, according to feedback obtained by the institution.

"It has been over a year since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and changed our students’ lives dramatically, raising questions about their ability to endure a prolonged crisis, with potentially long nationwide closures and other significant challenges," it was explained in a statement on Monday.

Ghaliya al-Mansoori, a business student, described how she found the lockdown terrible at first, but later she decided to break the monotony by enrolling on various free online courses, which eventually helped her start her new marketing company in July 2020.

“I have been working from home and I have had 25 clients so far. I feel great about this achievement. I think we all have to deal with this, so it’s better to start doing something new. Everyone at home needs to set a long-term goal then work to achieve it by relevant short-term goals and working towards them one after another.”

Afaf Ibrahim AlDha’en, a student in the College of Education, talked about the importance of time management. “I have faced many challenges during this lockdown, as I have a family, my studies at QU, as well as concerns about my health. Trying to deal with this, I try to keep up a high morale and to organise my time. I have a daily schedule that I follow. I recite verses of the Qur'an after each prayer, and before Iftar, we enjoy cooking together and preparing the long-awaited meal. Our communication with relatives is now only on social media at certain times. In this way, I am less distracted, less stressed, and I can focus on my priorities.”

However, Afaf also admitted that she was “deeply concerned” about her health as she is required to take her exams on campus, whereas she strongly prefers to sit the test online.

Sayyed Yousuf, a student at the Foundation Programme, indicated that he had been handling it reasonably well: “I am in quarantine, but I don’t stress about it very much because I do many things to adapt and pass my time. I study every day about two to three hours. Sometimes if I am bored, I play a video game. In the past, I used to go to the Corniche for jogging every day, but now I exercise in my home and sometimes I play football. I want to stay safe. Now we are in Ramadan and I recite verses of the Qur'an at least one hour a day. These activities fill my time and help me stay well.”

Under QU rules, Yousuf will be requested not to come on campus since he is in quarantine; alternatively, a make-up test will be scheduled for him once he leaves the quarantine.

A significant number of students are still considerably challenged during the current circumstances. The crisis has prevailed longer than expected. Some students have underperformed due to lack of face-to-face interaction, as well as boredom which has resulted from prolonged lockdown; others have stopped taking their studies seriously enough, consequently missing some of their assessments.

"Afaf was not the only student to express concerns about taking exams on campus during the current conditions," it was pointed out. Administering exams on campus during a pandemic can be a stressful experience, as students’ anxiety over their health and safety could negatively affect their performance, especially with the recent rise in the number of Covid-19 cases. Students are rightly concerned about the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones.

However, it seems necessary at the moment to administer some of the tests on campus because transitioning completely to online testing could similarly present serious challenges, such as having to deal with unstable Internet connectivity issues in remote areas, and the possibility of the impersonation of examinees. If these challenges are addressed and a secure examination platform that features advanced proctoring techniques to prevent impersonation, then online testing could become a preferred and even attractive option under pandemic conditions.

The rigorous cleaning of all facilities on QU campus has become a daily procedure, including inside offices and exam rooms. No students or faculty members are allowed into any building without a green Ehteraz status or evidence of vaccination. Everyone must wear a mask at all times, and any student who displays signs of illness is requested to leave the exam room and apply for a make-up exam.

Students are always encouraged to communicate with their teachers, if they need any other support. Students at-risk of failing a course are contacted individually to attend one-to-one remedial online sessions, so that they catch up and stand a better chance to succeed, the statement added.

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