MONTREAL -- Dawson and Vanier Colleges have announced that most of their final exams for the fall 2020 semester will be held online. 

The schools' initial plans were to hold all exams in person, despite the fact that most students spent the semester learning at a distance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In an effort to change the exam plan at Dawson, a student created online petition at the beginning of November that has since received more than 3,300 signatures (out of approximately 11,000 students at the school).

The petition called on Dawson to revise its plan, citing health concerns amid the pandemic. 

In a memo to teachers, the school's academic dean, Diane Gauvin, said the decision was made to adhere to the Quebec government's holiday plan -- which suggests for anyone who intends to gather at Christmas to quarantine for at least seven days beforehand. 

Premier Francois Legault specified on Thursday that people who can't observe a seven-day quarantine can still gather, but they must do their best to stay two metres away from others and should wear a mask. 

Higher Education Minister Danielle McCann said there's a possibility that exam dates will be shifted around to cater to the gathering period -- but the idea is upsetting teaching unions and CEGEP student federations because of how much reorganization it would take, and the fact that it would mean students had less time to study. 

Vanier also cited evolving government directives as the reason for its decision.

"Vanier College has examined its exam schedule and will be moving most of end of term exams online, except for a few technical programs where students must demonstrate in person certain abilities with specific equipment," said Marguerite Corriveau, who handles communications for the school, in an email to CTV News. 

These updates mean exams that were scheduled to be held in-person will now be held online, with the exception of those with "essential in-person practical components." 

“For the handful of examinations that must take place at Dawson, we will ensure that everyone follows health and safety protocols, including the use of personal protective equipment and symptoms screening,” Gauvin said in the memo. 

Dawson said it also plans to put measures in place that will "preserve the academic integrity" of the online exams. 

“The online environment is far from ideal,” Gauvin said. “It is a compromise made in an exceptional situation." 

With files from The Canadian Press.