Around 170 teachers of Economics from different colleges of Delhi University (DU) have written to the Head of Department (HoD) expressing “concerns and reservations” against DU’s online open book examinations scheduled to be held in July this year. DU’s Dean Examinations had issued a notice saying the exams would be held in the alternative format due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 171 teachers, including those from prestigious colleges like St Stephen’s College, Hindu College and Miranda House among others, wrote to HoD Sudhir Shah arguing that “based on strong student feedback and our own experience of the unsatisfactory and limited scope and coverage of online classes”, they felt that there are “very serious hindrances to time-bound online open book examinations in the pattern suggested by the university” and this it was not a feasible move at all.
“Given that many students are back at home, they may not have regular or certain access to the internet. It is possible that the server may be down or the internet speed too slow at the time of the exams. Many of us experienced this acutely while attempting to take online classes. The situation may be worse for students who are in containment zones,” the teachers wrote.
“Many students went back home during the midterm break without proper study material. They were caught unaware when the university closed and then the sudden lockdown happened very quickly. Many of them have their books and class-notes in Delhi. Even though we have uploaded some reading material, not all material (often with strict copyright and circulation rules) can be officially uploaded…It is needless to say that economically and socially disadvantaged students will face these problems disproportionately. Further, students who are differently abled will face immense problems and the proposed time duration will be grossly inadequate for them,” they added.
They also pointed “serious concerns regarding the pattern of the question paper”.
“Given the situation that no courses could be completed when the university closed down and that online teaching has been extremely uneven and inaccessible to many students, the range of choice given to the students should be much more than usual. Ironically, the instruction is that students have to answer 4 out of 6 questions, which is much less than the current norm in many courses. The need is to expand choices significantly, not reduce them,” the teachers wrote.
“Given the serious difficulties both in logistical issues and the very sanctity of the process, we doubt if any meaningful process of online examinations can be carried on at all. Further, since both normal and online examinations are faced with serious constraints, the university should have a multipronged approach to examinations and evaluations,” they added.
They gave two suggestions. Either, students be passed based on the internal assessments for this semester and “not assign any grades for this semester’s papers at all”, or “constitute grades for this semester based on their overall existing GPA of the previous semesters along with a component of internal assessment this semester”.
The teachers have asked that their suggestions and concerns be communicated to Dean Examinations Vinay Gupta. When asked if any further action had been taken on the letter, Economics HoD Sudhir Shah said, “I have replied to the letter and that’s it”.
In his reply, Shah wrote, “I believe everyone is alive to the technological, infrastructural and academic challenges. Everyone must also be aware of an HRD/UGC directive/advice/suggestion/recommendation to hold exams of some sort in July for the final year and no exams for the rest. Let’s hope some clarity emerges on the scope, applicability, and current status, keeping iv view the evolving epidemiological evidence.”
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