Here are some lessons that DU could take away on its conduction of ‘Online Open Book Exams’ as expressed by several students across the University. This will focus on issues such as inaccessibility, portal failures, and a general state of uncertainty that followed the onset of these examinations.
These are early days for online open-book exams for Delhi University. As always, such experiments yield some great experiences, but also many mistakes.
The pandemic has been doubly perilous for students of Delhi University. While many do not have the means to access online classes, others are unable to find conducive spaces for studying in their homes leading to widespread exclusion from mainstream education processes. The recent death by suicide of an LSR student due to the paucity of economic resources led to many student protests against this very exclusionary nature of online education. With exams shifting online last semester, the situation doesn’t seem to be improving.
The notice which was issued on 24 November 2020 by the Dean of Examinations at DU, states that students shall require a laptop/mobile phone/ or any other appropriate device with internet connectivity for downloading or uploading the papers. This notice assumes that all students of a public university would have access to this in the first place. While various student-led Groups have contributed to distributing e-resources across the university, the admin of most colleges has remained unresponsive. For those who have the necessary electronic devices, the lack of internet connectivity poses another issue.
“It was a disaster. I’d completed my paper beforehand and had 45 minutes to upload and even that was not enough to get my answer-scripts uploaded on time. Due to massive internet issues, the files were taking a lot of time to get uploaded and the portal was being irresponsive and then it showed ‘error’ and ‘time out.’ I couldn’t stop crying because everything that I’d planned came crashing down in front of me. Though we were in contact with our supportive professors, there was still a lot of confusion about the delayed submission and within this mayhem, the portal randomly opened and closed again around 3:00 pm. This was when most of us tried again and were finally successful. It was only a day later that the University released proper guidelines for delayed submissions. The level of unpreparedness and apathy of the University towards its students is condemnable.”A second-year student from Delhi University narrates her experience with the Online Open Book Exams
Read Also : DU Releases Guidelines for Students Who are Unable to Upload Answer Sheets on OBE Portal- https://dubeat.com/2020/12/du-releases-guidelines-for-students-who-are-unable-to-upload-answer-sheets-on-obe-portal/
Even though the University did provide numbers of Nodal Officers whom students could contact in case they were unable to upload their answer sheets, students were dissatisfied with this redressal mechanism. Speaking to DU Beat about her interaction with her college’s appointed nodal officer, a second-year student studying Sociology at South Campus says,
“I was unable to upload my answer sheets on the DU Portal as my internet wasn’t working. I tried contacting the Nodal Officer but that didn’t really help. He told me that I should have thought about such problems before-hand as I must have known that my area has frequent internet issues. He asked me to send a mail with the answer sheet, which was a redundant solution since my net wasn’t working. He finally said that he can’t do anything.”
Some students thus spoke about the need for helplines that were more accessible. For instance, having one helpline per department might be extremely beneficial. Training teachers and officers who are on the other end of the helpline regarding how to deal with such a situation is also necessary.
Further, the OBE was characterized by a general state of uncertainty because of the multiple and conflicting instructions given by the University in its official notifications. This included confusion regarding the information one had to write on the first page of the answer sheet and the number of pages to be uploaded in one PDF File amongst many others.
For many departments like Sociology and English, the portal did not show any scheduled examination until the last minute on the day of their first exam. The Sociology Department seemed to be the unluckiest of the lot as they were given a question paper that was out of syllabus (which upon incessant requests from students and teachers was later changed by the University). A second-year student studying sociology in Lady Shri Ram College asserts,
“With the question paper being set wrong and changed mid-way during an exam; well, it was stressful, very stressful. And I feel like it brought down the morale of students, at least that’s what happened to me.”
Even more so, the countless instances of cheating and use of unjust means such as ghostwriters for online examinations in other Universities, clearly outline how unfair this mode can be.
So did DU pass the Exam? Maybe, but not with very high marks. This second phase of the Online OBEs for Delhi University has thrown up further lessons to be learned. But let’s hope, if and when the occasion arises again, that third time’s a charm.
Read Also : Why Open Book Exams Are A Huge Failure
Featured Image Credits: The Quint