The preparedness of the country’s education system and its stakeholders for resorting to the online mode in an efficacious manner is still reeling under the question mark of feasibility. Reducing the weightage of final examinations or the end-of-course examinations and increasing the weightage of continuous assessment will envisage good quality student assessment. The open-book type unproctored examinations hold the potential to resolve the institutional problems of likely use of unfair practices in online examinations. The teacher engagement, too, increases in, both, the continuous assessment of students and the open-book examination.
It is nearly two years since the educational institutions were first closed due to the COVID pandemic. As a result, the education processes comprising of teaching-learning and examination-evaluation were carried out in an online manner. However, the preparedness of the country’s education system and its stakeholders for resorting to the online mode in an efficacious manner is still reeling under the question mark of feasibility. Unequivocally, the digital divide and the diverse socio-economic conditions have been accepted as the key deterrent to effective online transactions.
With the passage of the first wave and second wave of the pandemic, the educational institutions had gradually switched over to the offline mode of operation. But, in the ensuing third wave of Omicron, the educational institutions have again been closed in many states of the country. Timing is such that in a large number of cases, the examinations were supposed to be held during this period. This has again sparked a debate between the students and the institutions for online versus offline examinations.
Unfortunately, the tussle between the institutional governance trying to hold the offline examinations and the students & guardians calling for online examinations has now become ubiquitous. Quite often, the institutions are seen impressing upon the offline examinations despite the fear of getting infected hovering around. Such situations are primarily emanating from the institution’s consideration that the online examination systems are not fair, holistic, and prone to malpractices, meaning thereby that the outcome of online in-course examinations is not comparable to the regular offline mode examinations of the past or the future. Nevertheless, the instances of the use of unfair practices in online examinations have been checked to a certain extent through proctoring tools evolved in due course of time, but the whole process of online examination has still not achieved a level of impeccable integrity. It is observed that at times, the fertile minds of students crack the proctoring options or these offer limited serviceability due to poor digital connectivity or inadequacy of electricity and IT gadgets.
Altogether, the perception of the educational institutions about the lack of rigour and questionable sanctity of online examination systems appears reasonable. Despite the online technological solution providers toiling hard to make the online assessment foolproof, the digital divide and socio-economic conditions will be all-time spoilers. Consequentially, the institutions have to ponder upon and find the solution for meeting examination exigencies arising out from their sudden closure. Taking a cue from the possibilities of use of unfair means even in offline examinations, the academics need to see beyond in order to reframe the assessment tool in a manner that itself makes the use of unfair practices irrelevant.
So, the process of evaluating the learning level of students in formal programmes requires total change. Apparently, getting rid of final examinations could lead to the loss of their sheen. The continuous evaluation of the learning levels of students as the course progresses during the session may yield a better assessment of the knowledge attainment of students. Primarily, reducing the weightage of final examinations or the end-of-course examinations and increasing the weightage of continuous assessment will envisage good quality student assessment. In turn, owing to regular capture of student learning assessment this will also keep students in alert mode along with teachers and students both coming to know the extent of learning for appropriate course corrections.
Secondly, the examinations must be attempted to be made open-book type, so that any possibility of cheating is simply eliminated. The question papers are to be set in such a manner that the students are able to solve questions only when they have a genuine and deeper understanding of the subject. Comparing the open-book examination with the closed-book examination shows observable takeaways as under.
- Lesser anxiety of preparation among examinees in open-book examination. Students are not stressed in view of the study material being in their reach during the examination.
- Active learning in open book examination as compared to rote learning in closed-book examination. In closed-book examinations, the students have to remember the contents and reproduce it in examination.
- Higher order thinking skill (HOTS) engagement in open-book examination. The open-book examination permits students to think creatively while using the accessible study material in replying to the questions.
- Better student satisfaction in open-book examination. Students feel greatly satisfied in open-book examination due to the all possible attempts and thinking invoked by them in answering the questions.
- Better student learning assessment. Open-book examinations facilitate better quality questions to be put before students and the focus on their problem solving capability is maintained.
Thus, the open-book type unproctored examinations hold the potential to resolve the institutional problems of likely use of unfair practices in online examinations. Nonetheless, the education institution will have to train its teachers effectively for preparing question papers in open-book type examinations. It goes without saying that in the new environment of open-book examination, the question paper setter has to be thorough and invest much of his/her time and effort in putting forward the questions for seeking student replies for their learning level assessment. From the academics’ point of view, the teacher engagement increases in, both, the continuous assessment of students and the open-book examination. Therefore, the paradigm change in examination and evaluation system warrants the students to accept and teachers to effectively practice the modified evaluation system and open-book type examinations. Open house discussions can definitely help in creating enabling ecosystem for introducing such changes.
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About the author
Prof. Onkar Singh has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). Currently, he is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).