Mumbai colleges in talks with service providers for online exams

MUMBAI: A day after Mumbai University confirmed the format of final-year exams, colleges rushed to get an online system in place. While some autonomous colleges are talking to third party service providers, many are considering using Google forms to deliver the test. The university, though, is silent on providing technology centrally. Academicians, meanwhile, have questioned the viability of using objective-based online tests to evaluate students in a certifying exam.

“This is the first time we have decided to decentralize the final-year university exams and will be using the cluster system,” said Neel Helekar, a management council member. “The colleges in the cluster will be able to co-ordinate and share their infrastructure, technology and even the question banks. They can appoint a service provider for the online exam or make use of Google forms,” said Helekar. A centralized question bank for every subject would be prepared with all questions being of similar level of difficulty.

Google forms were extensively used by colleges this year during admissions. “Most of us principals are looking at using these forms to conduct the exam,” said a principal. “The G-suite most colleges have been using for conducting class tests allows for randomization of questions as well as randomisation of options within each question. No two students will have the same question paper,” said a college head.An additional proctor plug-in can be used for online monitoring, said a principal. Some autonomous colleges are planning to use online-proctoring software to supervise exams.

“If not proctored, students could well go to their coaching centre and get answers from faculty and take the exam. Essentially, the state is following the SC norms, but the entire exercise is a farce,” said a principal. “The degree earned has to be of value, which is a derivative of the practices followed of which the integrity of exams conducted is a crucial factor,” said a principal.

Educationist BN Jagatap from IIT-Bombay said, “The universities are working under constraints and how prospective employers value the evaluation process has to be seen. Many students may get an additional degree later but we also have to look at students from weaker economic background. Therefore, it is important that universities conduct the exams, in whichever manner possible, in all seriousness.”

Several college heads said proctoring would bring in integrity in exams and were awaiting university guidelines on it. Considering ATKT exams will have to be conducted for final-year students, the colleges will have to design question papers for all three years.

The student community is opposed to the MCQ (multiple choice questions) format as descriptive answers would have given scope for partial marking, but in this format, marks will be lost entirely for a wrong answer. “We have never been tested in this format,” said a student.

When vice chancellor Suhas Pednekar met principals on Saturday, he said he felt that he was being tested more than students and hoped that the university would “sail through”. Little wonder then that the MU does not want to have a time-consuming exam format.

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