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UNL students adapt to rare weekend finals schedule
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UNL students adapt to rare weekend finals schedule

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UNL FInals, 11.21

A lone University of Nebraska-Lincoln student prepares for a final at 6 p.m. Saturday at Henzlik Hall.

With the sound of the Husker football game echoing across campus, a handful of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students filed into the Nebraska Union early Saturday afternoon for a last-minute cram session before their final exams.

Only taking short breaks to check the score of the game, Lily Weindel, a freshman elementary education major, was studying for her Saturday evening math final. But even though having finals on a weekend is a rare occurrence, Weindel said she wasn't thrown off by this year's unique schedule.

"The whole semester being kind of weird is just kind of normal to me because I haven't experienced anything else," she said. "So, when they said finals will be on the weekend ... I didn't really think too much of it."

In contrast to previous years, UNL administrators decided to end this fall semester by Thanksgiving to reduce student travel as part of its coronavirus response. That meant final exams would have to be adjusted to fit the semester schedule and be wrapped up before Thanksgiving.

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Amy Goodburn, senior associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate education and also the the co-chair of the Forward to Fall Committee, said they had to work with several groups to make sure the fall schedule fulfilled their university guidelines.

"It was a little bit dictated by our accreditation guidelines and by the recommendations, but I haven't heard any complaints from anybody," she said. "Especially now, people are happy that the semester is over and that they can go home and have that really nice, long, nine-week session before they come back in late January."

Goodburn said the committee decided on the fall exam schedule by June and gave professors until the beginning of August to schedule their specific exam dates and make sure they didn't clash with the finals of other professors.

But it was unclear at the time whether there would be a football season, and the committee didn't know there would be a home game scheduled on what was the first day of finals.

"For instructors who wanted to move their finals, we made it possible if they wanted to move to the East Campus or just to a building that's far away from the stadium, so that the noise doesn't distract their students," Goodburn said. "So we've made accommodations for people who wanted those types of changes."

One of those changes was the transition of math finals from in-person to completely online.

"We came to the conclusion that we would need to give our exams online rather than in-person with the social distancing requirements," said Allan Donsig, professor and vice-chair of UNL's math department. "We couldn't fit everybody into the one time slot."

Donsig said roughly 3,000 UNL students took a math final Saturday night. That's a standard number for the fall semester, but it became a challenge to figure out how to get those students to take the exam at the same time during the pandemic.

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"Normally we fill up all of the large classrooms on campus, and that's when we can put 200 people in a lecture hall," Donsig said.

Anamaria Guzman, a senior neuroscience major, said her chemistry professor had scheduled an in-person final, but had to move the exam location because of its proximity to Memorial Stadium.

"Thankfully I don't think I was too distracted with noises coming from the stadium, but it added a little more stress because of the change of location," Guzman said.

Guzman also said having a final on the weekend was a little more stressful because she would normally have used that time to study.

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"In dead week you're already doing a lot with doing homework and projects, and the weekend is supposed to be to rest and recover from whatever happened during the week," Guzman said. "I didn't feel like I had the time to recover and pull myself together to do a big final. It was a cumulative exam, and it required more time to study."

Although some students had mixed feelings about finals starting on the weekend, Goodburn said the university does not plan to have finals during the weekend in future semesters, since it was only to accommodate the shortened fall semester and get them done before Thanksgiving break.

"We did this semester because all the predictions about having a surge came true," she said. "I would like to send students home and let them be in their communities for a long time before they come back, you know, to protect them and their families."

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Reach the writer at nsaenz@journalstar.com or 402-473-7223.

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