Midterm week for the Fall 2020 semester was much different than usual. The shortened semester due to COVID-19 meant the removal of Fall Break and other major shifts in the academic calendar. A consequence of this was how overly stressful midterm week became, as workloads had to fit into shorter timeframes, along with an unstructured format for assignments, as professors adapted to this first-time change.
I keep saying midterm “week,” but for a lot of students, exams and other major assignments felt as if they were given over a span of two to three weeks. This is a direct consequence of the removal of Fall Break because there is no longer a set timeframe for these assignments. Over the last three weeks, many students have said that a new “midterm” assignment or exam may be given multiple times in each week. This should not be the case, since it just adds more stress on students. This combined with no break made it even worse, because students have to go right back into the curriculum to prepare for the next major assignments immediately after completing midterm exams, projects and papers.
In addition, there was no structure to when assignments were due during this timeframe. The shorter semester makes it feel like many professors are rushing to fit in assignments before certain deadlines.
Personally, this was apparent when I had three major papers due in a span of five days, when I had only two days to complete one of those papers after it was assigned. Everything just feels more fast-paced. An aspect of removing the usual break was to compensate for this, but since classes this term end mid-November instead of the normal mid-December, professors are finding any way they can to fit their curriculum into a shorter time frame at the great expense of the student body.
I have referenced it many times already, but something needs to be done about the removal of Fall Break. Reinstating it during a time like this is tricky, since it will probably promote people to leave campus for the week, but there needs to be some type of break to not only allow students to destress but also to act as a deadline when midterms should be given by. Something I have talked about with other students is a two day break in the middle of the week, which is short enough to discourage travel, but long enough for it to be a destressor after numerous assignments.
With COVID-19, it must be very difficult to design a semester. I understand that in practice, things are different than they are initially designed. If the virus continues to be as prominent as it is now, changes need to be made to ensure a less stressful time for students, especially during midterms.