UoPeople – Coping with exam stress

J. Francois Barnard – 22 October 2019

Exam time can be extremely stressful. Writing the exam online in a country where the internet and power grid are unstable is even more stressful. But if you are studying at UoPeople, one of the things you least have to worry about is the Moodle server.

study013I have said it before: I believe that UoPeople has one of the best-developed Moodle servers in the world today. They have a team of programmers in Tel Aviv, Israel, doing a sterling job in giving the 20,000+ students (Editor: 137,000 in 2023) a stable platform to work on.

In South Africa, we recently had a season of load shedding again. That is when the local power utility decides that you will sit in the dark. The obvious thing for a student at an online university to do is to get an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) (Editor: Or an inverter with Lithium batteries and PV Panels). But the battery can keep the router and Wi-Fi access points running only for a limited period. Mine lasts for about 40 minutes or so. My computer’s battery can last at least two to three hours.

If that happens, you have to tell yourself to calm down because nothing helpful happens at a ballistic level. Once you are calm enough, think of your contingency plans. If you have none, you have obviously not read this post before, and you are screwed. Sad to say.

What contingency plans should you look at?


It is better to use a notebook computer with a built-in battery than a desktop computer. But if you only have a desktop computer, make sure it is connected to a UPS, large enough to carry the load for an hour or so.

Be careful of running computers directly on a power generator. These generators do not always supply power at the required 50Hz or 60Hz and can damage your computer’s power supply. If you have a generator, run the power, preferably through an online UPS. An online UPS gives constant clean electricity from the battery while the generator charges it again. A line-interactive UPS provides the computer with dirty electricity from the generator and only switches over to the battery if the power fails. The switch-over takes three milliseconds and is in itself a little surge-creator. Preferably use the online UPS.


There are so many sources of internet that it is difficult to describe every possible scenario here. The best is to use an uncapped service and not a “metered connection” where your data can run out.

In developed countries, the internet usually is not a problem. In developing countries, the internet can be slow and a massive problem for any online user.

My contingency plan for the internet is to go to my office at work, where I know we have a 50Mbps fibre line with a 15Mbps failover line. In other words, I have another internet source 22km from my house, and I can go there if my house's internet is not functioning.

I have next-door neighbours who would also help if I need it. But neighbours’ houses are not always exam-friendly. So be careful who you choose to be your backup internet source.

Make arrangements with these sources beforehand. Tell them about your upcoming exams and ensure that they will be there for you in case you need them.

Having the above contingency plans in place will give you the peace of mind to focus on what you should do: Your academic work.

At UoPeople, your exams are all multiple-choice questionnaires. When Week 9 opens, first check to see if you have a Review Quiz available. That is what you should repeat over and over again until you nail it and get 100% for it. Review all the other quizzes from Week 1 to Week 8 to make sure that you know the answers.

Most of your exams, even some proctored exams, are “open book” exams. So, you can search for an answer in your textbook. But do not spend too much time over it.

My strategy is to click on the “Attempt quiz now” and start answering the questions I know first, flagging those that I do not know (there is a button you can press to flag it). Once I have gone through the whole questionnaire, I return to those I flagged before. Then only do I search for answers in my textbook.

The better you are prepared, the less stressful exams are.