Not surprisingly, 12 of the 16 deans voiced opposition to such an assessment system. A month later, Vinay Gupta, dean of examinations, issued circulars that DU would hold online open-book examinations (OBE).
The deans’ initial resistance to OBE has since grown into a bigger opposition. Recently, 15 heads of department expressed opposition, even as probably for the first time since the four-year undergraduate programme protests of 2013, DU’s teachers’ and students’ unions are on the same page in resisting OBE.
The task force on examinations constituted by the university decided that 2.5 lakh final year undergraduate and postgraduate students of regular and distance learning institutions would have to sit for OBE. A dean who was at the April 13 meeting disclosed, “DU was to have waited for the UGC panel report on the matter, but a committee was formed with mostly representatives from the School of Open Learning. Then on May 13, a circular was issued on online exams, completely disregarding the administrative, technological and other practical problems as also the concerns of students.”
The biggest worry is access to computers/laptops and reliable internet connectivity to be able to download question sheets and then scan and upload the answer scripts. Online access to reading materials is also a big problem. Online class attendance hasn’t been encouraging either. A St Stephen’s College teacher said, “Many of my students from the Northeast and parts of UP couldn’t attend online classes even once. They weren’t able to download reading materials due to connectivity problems.”
As a solution, DU asked teachers to upload reading materials on its website. But as an HOD revealed, “On one occasion, when teachers tried to do just that, the website crashed. And everyone knows about the glitches in our portal during the annual admission process.”
Rajesh Jha, member, Executive Council, asked, “How will you ensure the student is writing the exam? There is no invigilation for OBE.” However, alternatives such as calculating marks with 25% internal assessment or the average of the marks secured by the student in the previous semesters have been discarded. A taskforce committee member argued, “A student will be at a loss if exams were not held. Calculating averages will mean most students will have a similar range of marks.”
As for Net accessibility, the panel member said DU was conferring with the Union electronics and information technology ministry. “At its district centres, the students will be provided with the facilities required to write the exams,” he said.
But departmental heads — the people responsible for executing the exam process — have resolved the examinations will be held in offline mode in July. Their letter to the dean of examinations said, “In addition to students’ concerns, this imposed OBE has operational difficulties for HoDs, including preparing three sets of question papers for each subject, moderation of nearly a thousand question papers and uploading of question papers.”
One of the HODs has also raised a legal question. “The exam process is part of the contract between the student and university and syllabus is the contract document. Syllabi undergo change through several processes in the statutory bodies before becoming a part of DU’s statute,” the head pointed out. “In that document, exam is defined as an offline three-hour, written test. Changes in this have to go through the same statutory process.”