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Are Worksheets and Tests at College, Dead?

Physical worksheets. Are they still alive and used in classrooms today?

Credit: Shutterstock/ Nana_studio

A staggering 2/3rd’s of students and teachers admitted to completing and distributing homework online. Even crazier, this research was conducted in 2019, a full year before the pandemic and online schools took over. If physical worksheets held a little slice in the homework cake back then, I can only imagine what it looks like now.

Technology is taking over, whether we like it or not. And for those in school, it’s constantly changing the way we learn. Much to the dismay of some of our parents, students these days have it easy when it comes to doing their homework. Pretty much everything is saved automatically, so no loss of our documents. And turning assignments in is easier than ever with automatic feedback most of the time.

However, this begs the question, what happened to the physical worksheets we all used to know? Are they really a thing of the past that hold no value in this world ruled by technology? Or are teachers using their resources to the fullest and actually saving the world by not using paper?

Student doing online school while taking notes on a physical worksheet.
Over 80% of students take notes in the majority of their classes. Shutterstock / maxim ibragimov

The Impact of COVID-19 on Physical Worksheets

Fun fact, all schools in every state closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, except schools in Montana and Wyoming. Unfortunately, those two states can’t save the lives of physical worksheets. With research from the Pew Research center, 93% of U.S. parents reported that their K-12 children received online work to complete. For students that didn’t acquire any online work, it’s safe to assume no physical worksheets existed for them.

The pandemic also sent many college students home or kept them locked in their living spaces. Basically, any hopes of physical worksheets staying in the curriculum fell apart for two years. But what about now? Students have been back in person for quite some time, so have things changed since the pandemic?

Two students enjoying doing their physical worksheets together.
Students tend to retain more information when learning in person. Credit: Shutterstock / Azami Adiputera

Physical Worksheets Today

Through all the excitement of returning to in-person schooling, students may not have noticed, but the short answer is yes. Physical worksheets are still alive.

Teachers and professors around the country still use them, but it seems to be when they’re necessary for better learning. What do I mean by that? Well, I think we can all agree that online learning has numbed our brains to a point where we don’t learn as effectively as we could. An educator can change this, though, by giving out a physical worksheet. A student using a pencil to write instead of typing engages them much more.

Take college engineering or physics students, for example. Their math would be extremely difficult to do on a computer and is much more beneficial for them to do hands-on with a piece of paper. Not to mention, students process information better when using paper and pencil.

Student taking a test in class with paper and pencil.
In-person, physical tests are made to be easier than online ones. Credit: Shutterstock / panitanphoto

Why use Physical Worksheets?

As for kids in K-12th grade, well, their situations can all be different from one another even though they’re in the same classroom. The biggest issue for them is home life. That’s not to say one’s home life can be bad or good, but it definitely could contain disadvantages for schooling. The pandemic brought this issue to the forefront.

For instance, some students don’t have the internet at home to complete homework that’s an online document or essay. You can imagine how hard online school was during quarantine for kids without access to their schoolwork, and all places with free internet were closed. So, for homework, it’s important for teachers to keep these issues in mind.

Physical worksheets are also a refreshing change. Students have been bombarded with online busy work for the past four years now. Seeing any physical worksheet or test in class nowadays will actually engage the students and make them work harder. Meanwhile, for all online worksheets and tests, the student tends to complete the task like a robot. It can be mindless.

Annoyed student doing online school.
Less than half of university graduates preferred online school compared to in-person. Credit: Shutterstock / Ann Blazic Pavlovic


So physical worksheets are alive. Hooray!

However, they’re underutilized in classrooms for all grades. The balance of online work to paper work is leaning towards online since even before the pandemic. And the most likely cause is complacent teachers.

Even so, it’s endearing to know that hard copy worksheets are up and running despite the growth in remote class use. And if they do die one day, it seems like that’ll be the day when school is officially rendered done for everyone.

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Written By

Caleb Maser is a Grand Valley State University Student studying writing and photography. Besides school, he hangs out with friends, plays various sports and video games for fun, serves at Stans Tacos, and continues to work on his first novel and take photographs.

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