The Relationship Between Timers and Student Performance on Online Exams; Applying Mindfulness Resources: How Giving Mindfulness Resources to Minority College Students Could Relieve Anxiety in a More Private and Helpful Manner

Brothers, Campbell, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Neeley, Kathryn, University of Virginia
Basit, Nada, University of Virginia

Imagine having a huge exam that is a big portion of your grade. Obviously, you want to do your best on the exam so you don’t ruin your grade; but with such high stakes for one grade. You study extra hard and push yourself so you can score the best grade. As the pressure to get the perfect grade grows, so does your nervousness and wariness for the exam. This scenario is what many students with anxiety face. Anxiety is something all students face throughout their academic careers. While it is hard to avoid anxiety altogether, there are different ways to reduce the level of anxiety students feel. Both of my projects focused on anxiety; however, they took two different paths. For the technical project, my team focused on a more academic setting by creating different graphical timers for online assessments and testing their effect on students’ anxiety levels. Yet, testing anxiety may not be the only type of anxiety students may experience. My STS research focused on how offering mindfulness resources to students can be a more effective way to diminish high anxiety levels in students.

Due to the pandemic and quarantine, online exams and assessments have been very popular. One element of online exams that many students dislike is the timer at the top of the screen. The timer at the top of the screen contains three colors that change as time passes. Green means that you are good on time, yellow means that you are about halfway done, and red means you have only a few minutes left on your exam. Red is a very aggressive color and can often raise a student’s anxiety level during an exam. So, my team developed five different graphical timers using Javascript. Then, these timers were used in experiments with three different computer science classes. Students were allowed to choose the different timers and then filled out a small survey to explain how they felt during the exam. The project, however, hasn’t been completed as we are waiting for our final data collection after finals. So, our data analysis will not be conducted until the summer.

Students often feel anxiety during their everyday life. Up to 44% of college students have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, with an even higher number for minority college students. This number has only grown since the pandemic. There is a need for resources that are available for students to use to help diminish their anxiety in academic and non-academic settings. There is the option of cognitive behavioral therapy for students, but there are month-long waitlists before students can even get their first appointment. Once the student can create their first appointment for therapy, it is a huge time commitment. For students time is precious. So if a student doesn’t find therapy to be a great use of time, they will abandon the idea. My analysis of offering mindfulness resources to students suggests that it will be more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy as this allows students to perform mindfulness exercises on their own time and receive the help they need.

My STS and technical reports combined illustrate how anxiety is a very complex topic. The reports work together to show that there is a way to offer a solution for two different aspects of anxiety. The research conducted on both topics indicates that there are two different ways to diminish anxiety levels in students, one in an academic setting and the other in a personal setting. While the reports explore two different aspects of anxiety, they both integrate the three aspects of the socio-technical triangle discussed in STS 4500. The socio-technical triangle is crucial as we need to consider all sides of the problem to create a final solution that will benefit all parties involved. Without the three elements of the triangle, the project would leave out some groups, making the project less effective.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
testing anxiety, mindfulness resouces, pandemic, online assessments

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Nada Basit
STS Advisor: Kathryn Neeley
Technical Team Members: Oluwatobi Solarin

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