There is a raging debate over how students should be evaluated. To resolve this, experiments are being undertaken on the best ways and means to conduct examinations. We interviewed Shoolini University Chief Learning Officer and Associate Professor Dr Ashoo Khosla, on the issue. Excerpts:
Shoolini University opted for online proctored examination this year. Do you propose to continue with this?
It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that we started exploring options to conduct fair exams. After much deliberation and experimentation, our IT Team developed the proctored system. The world has changed, and online is here to stay. We can’t regress to the old ways. Technology is like a river. You can’t go back, and the only way is forward. It is like an experiment. During experiments, somethings work, and others don’t. Technology is a great tool to detect the use of unfair means. Overall, as an experiment, it has succeeded. It is not perfect, but we are trying to improve. We took lessons from the first term exams and have improved the system for the second term. We are trying to streamline the end-term exam. This is an ongoing process, and it will improve with time. I’m glad to report that students are happy with the flexibility it provides.
Why do you feel there is a need to change the traditional examination system?
Things change with time, and so should we. As more gadgets come into our lives, the Internet has taken over the lead role. But, as most of our teachers graduated in the pre-Google era, the traditional examination system continues. We need to change this to find a connection with the youth who have grown up with Google and other search engines.
How has the examination trend changed at Shoolini?
The traditional system of pen and paper still exists. We sometimes have regulatory bodies which require us to keep a record of paper and pen exams. As early as 2013-14, we started experimenting with the examination system. You might be surprised that even back then, our MBA students were taking their exams online. Over the years, when people realised the ease of assessment of technology, they started adapting. From paper and pen, we had partly shifted to online in some ways, but the pandemic accelerated it. It could have taken another five years to reach a point where they are testing the proctored examination on campus, but that has happened so fast. Otherwise, it would have been a natural progression taking place slowly.
What is your take on the student feedback system? How necessary is it?
I strongly believe in feedback. We have this formal channel of feedback where we take feedback for everything. As we speak, we are floating a survey about proctored exams for teachers and students, and we will carefully examine that data. This is the most critical part for us. Besides formal channels like this, I always like informal feedback. I walk around the campus seeking input from students. There are problems everywhere, but there are solutions as well.
What is the future of e-learning and online examination?
They will be a much more significant part of the future and will continue to grow. We have to get used to it. I remember my father saying there was a time when people were scared to use a phone because they felt it was witchcraft. When we established eUniv, it seemed very alien. I’m hoping everything we are doing online will become routine in due course.
How efficient is the proctor system in online examinations?
It is very efficient! Some students may feel the system cannot proctor, or you can beat the system, but we have logs. We can monitor every student taking an exam and precisely what he/she is doing during the exam duration. This is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) steps in — helping us capture screenshots, noise, and eye movements. AI captures it if a student shifts his/her tab on the laptop or tries to look away from the camera. This is then translated into a score, and I’m happy to share that now all students can also see their logs or their cheat scores, as we call them. In case they deviate, we have planned a cut-off. We will penalise students and cut a certain number of marks for deviations.
Do you feel online examination lightens the burden on students?
That is what I hear all the time! They are thrilled with the new exam system. The top reasons are flexibility and the liberty to take exams as and when they please. Also, it is aligned with what is happening in the world. Look at standardised tests like GMAT, SAT and CAT. These are happening online, and there is a reason for that. People will have to change… this is the only answer. If you are relying on online material to study, we might as well test you online. We will keep making it more robust and secure. Ultimately, it is like any other exam where people do it sincerely or insincerely.
Any message for students?
Whenever a new system is introduced, there are bound to be challenges and hiccups… but they can be overcome with diligent work.
There is a dialogue from the movie, ‘Rang De Basanti’. “No country is perfect; it has to be made perfect.” So, don’t treat exams with fear. Think about why you have joined the university. Make the most of it. Exams are taken to evaluate what you’ve learned, and it is an evaluation of the whole system. You are fortunate to be in an environment where you can learn comfortably. When you go out and start living your life, you will miss the opportunity to learn. So, make the most out of it NOW.