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Oral exam via Zoom+

Anders Gersdorff Toft is a fourth-semester Mathematics student at SDU. He was the first out of seven students who sat their oral examination in Riemannian Geometry on 21 April 2020.

By Trine Søndergaard, , 4/30/2020

Instead of cycling to SDU to meet with his teacher, Ralf Zimmermann, and external examiner Thomas Bendokat, he logged onto Zoom at 8.50 a.m. from his parents' house in Southern Jutland. Anders Gersdorff Toft had turned the exam over in his mind:

– I thought about whether I would experience any technical problem and whether I could get my iPad connected, but I felt well informed. Ralf Zimmermann had sent out e-mails about how the exam was going to be conducted. I have also used Zoom a lot in the recent weeks so it wasn’t strange to me. I logged in 10 minutes ahead of time and then Ralf Zimmermann and I talked about the technical stuff. He hadn’t tried it before either, but he was calm and reassuring as always. He showed me Break Out Room in Zoom, which he and the external eaminer would use when deliberating. I think it was very professional.

The exam itself was much like a regular oral exam:

– I had prepared a five-minute presentation. Then Ralf Zimmermann and the external examiner  asked me about some details in my presentation and from the curriculum. It took about 15 minutes. Finally, they deliberated on my examination mark in Break Out Room. It all went very quietly, just like a regular conversation or oral exam at SDU, Anders Gersdorff Toft says.

But the minutes when the examiners deliberated were a very different experience:

– When they were deliberating, I thought it was a little strange to be alone, because I usually leave the exam room and go out to the other students. In a way, it was the examiners who left the room. I had a clear feeling that my performance was good and that I would pass, but I was quite nervous anyway, says Anders Gersdorff Toft, who got a mark which he is very satisfied with.

He adds:

– But I've also worked a lot with the curriculum.

Anders Gersdorff Toft thinks that there are both advantages and disadvantages to digital oral exams:

Some may feel more comfortable sitting for exams at home, but I prefer to be at SDU. The disadvantage for us who study Mathematics is that we tend to use the blackboard a lot, also for exams. Now we must write on our iPads instrad. It's ok, but I prefer our ordinary tools.

Anders Gersdorff Toft, Mathematics student at SDU

Anders Gersdorff Toft usually meets with his study group on campus or in the dorm. Now he meets the study group via Zoom, and he finds that the academic stuff is more time-consuming:

– When we could meet physically, we spent about three days preparing for a topic. Working together digitally is more difficult. We meet about three hours a day for a total of seven days, says Anders Gersdorff Toft, who also adds that he misses the physical meetings on campus.

– It is difficult not to see each other. During the lockdown I have chosen to live with my parents and have, therefore, not felt alone. Occasionally I meet with my study group through Zoom, and we drink a beer and play Uno.

Anders Gersdorff Toft has felt well informed from the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and the university in recent weeks:

– They are really managing the situation well – everything is fine. However, I look forward to receiving information on how the summer exams will be conducted. I have another oral exam in June, and I hope that I will soon be told how it will proceed.

Anders Gersdorff Toft ends the interview with some calming words for all Science students, who may also have to conduct oral exams via Zoom:

– It will be OK! You can see your teacher and it is very similar to the normal face-to-face exam.

Editing was completed: 30.04.2020