DU’s open book online exam: 35K take test, many face glitches

Around 35,000 Delhi University students of final year under-graduate and post-graduate courses appeared for the online open-book test, a first such assessment exercise undertaken by the varsity due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, many students complained that there were glitches during the exam and were also uncertain about whether or not they managed to upload their answer sheets.

The exams began at 7.30 a.m. and were held in three shifts – from 7.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m, 11.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m and 3.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. The exams will end on August 31.

According to the new exercise, the students had to download the question paper from the website and write the answers within three hours. One hour was dedicated for uploading and scanning the answer sheets. The varsity has said it is opting for the open book exams as a one-time measure in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many students were harried as they were not sure if their answer sheets were uploaded.

Zubair Khan, enrolled in the BA Programme course at the School of Open Learning (SOL), appeared for his Hindi exam. He said when he opened the portal to download his question paper, he found two sets — one of Hindi and another of the paper scheduled for August 13. “I sent mails to the SOL but there was no response. I consulted a professor who advised me to attempt the paper scheduled for today.” Another student, Deepak Gupta, said he was not sure if he had successfully uploaded his answer sheets before the scheduled time of 11.30 a.m.

“It was 11.28 am by the time I finished creating PDF files (of my answer sheets). I tried to upload them but they didn’t get uploaded. I have mailed them to the designated ID but do not know whether they will be accepted,” he added.

A student of B.Sc Physical Science, who did not wish to be identified, said the paper was quite tough and in a situation when classes could not happen properly, it was unjust for students to have to appear for exams.

Abha Dev Habib, a professor of Miranda House college, said most students in her class did not get a confirmation mail after uploading their answer sheets. The students then mailed their answer sheets to the varsity website and got an auto-generated response. Pankaj Garg, a professor at Rajdhani College, said the main problem that students faced was in uploading the answer sheets.

“They faced problems in uploading PDF files and some of the students said if they could upload answers to two questions, they could not upload the answers to the third. They were not sure whether their answer sheets were uploaded. The college received answer sheets on email post 11.30 am, which was the scheduled time,” he said.

The teaching faculty have their own set of problems, Garg said, pointing out that teachers will face issues while evaluating the answers.

“There is a fair possibility that there would be swapping of the pages while scanning and uploading, this would disturb the sequence…. Teachers have to be very very careful in connecting all those pages which belong to the same question,” he said.

While scanning, some pages may get blurred, he said, adding, it would be difficult to read them carefully and to connect to the next page and hence the continuity of the answer would be lost.

For teachers, the most challenging point would be marking of pages. “It seems evaluation would take much longer,” he stressed.

The exams have been postponed several times. The Delhi University Teachers’ Association had been demanding that the exams be scrapped and the students evaluated on the basis of previous performances and an internal assessment.

The Kashmiri students, who moved back to their homes in the valley during the lockdown, had issues related to 2G connectivity which was slow and unstable.

The open book exam is altogether a new experience for students and teachers. Teachers felt that the online open book exams won’t be a feasible option in the long run since they are not credible, as students seek help from their friends, and also raised doubts on how they would evaluate the students.

Arun Attri, a professor of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, said the exams have ended uncertainty for over two lakh students who now know that since they have taken the exams, they will get their results and can apply for their Masters.

However, he said online exams are not a feasible option in the long run for DU which is known for its commerce and humanities courses.

“The exams might be feasible for engineering and science students but they won’t serve the purpose for commerce and humanities courses. They are more like assignments than exams,” he opined.

A professor, requesting anonymity, said they learnt that students were sharing answers on whatsapp and cheating was happening.

Another professor, who also did not wish to be identified, questioned how they will evaluate the students since the varsity has not yet issued any guidelines on the same. The professor also claimed the students who work hard were being pressurised by their friends to share answers on whatsapp.

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