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Online tests? Most Delhi University students demur

Teachers' association sees grave danger in web-based education
The DU Teachers’ Association (DUTA), which conducted the survey, on Tuesday said 85 per cent of the 51,000 respondents, mostly regular students enrolled for undergraduate and postgraduate courses, had said they were “not ready” for online exams. DU has a total of 6 lakh students.

Basant Kumar Mohanty   |   New Delhi   |   Published 26.05.20, 09:39 PM

Delhi University students have overwhelmingly disapproved of the institution’s decision to hold online open-book examinations, according to a survey.

The DU Teachers’ Association (DUTA), which conducted the survey, on Tuesday said 85 per cent of the 51,000 respondents, mostly regular students enrolled for undergraduate and postgraduate courses, had said they were “not ready” for online exams. DU has a total of 6 lakh students.

DUTA alleged that the decision to hold exams on the Internet was part of a larger plan of the central government and the University Grants Commission to mainstream online education. DUTA expressed fears of a grave danger to the teaching community, saying the requirement for teachers would come down if online education was so extensively promoted.

DUTA president Rajib Ray said the teachers’ outfit conducted the survey to understand the concerns of students after the examination dean, professor Vinay Gupta, issued a notification on May 14 stating that the final year exams would be held in the online open-book mode from July 1. Online practical exams have started.

The decision to conduct such exams was taken without any discussion in academic forums of DU such as the Academic Council and the Executive Council.

About 38 per cent of the respondents were third-year undergraduate students who are to take the online open-book exams. The university is yet to clarify how the assessment will be done for first and second-year students.

Nearly 50 per cent of the survey participants said they either did not receive or did not have access to study materials sent by the teachers after the online classes. Nearly 34 per cent of the students said they did not attend the online classes taken by teachers during the lockdown. Around 28 per cent said they attended over half of the online classes while 38 per cent said they attended less than half of these classes.

Around 74 per cent of the respondents said they had smart phones, while 6.7 per cent did not have access to the Internet. To a question if they could concentrate on studies during the lockdown, 80 per cent replied in the negative.

“One thing is clear. The majority of the students do not have laptops (15.8 per cent of the respondents said they had the gadget). They are anxious and depressed,” Ray, the DUTA president, said.

DUTA representative Abha Deb Habib said students would find it difficult to answer questions sent to them via email, scan the answer sheets and upload them within three hours on the varsity website. Several departments, including history and economics, have suggested alternative methods of assessment under which students can be awarded grades based on internal assessments and previous exam scores, she said.

The Telegraph tried to get in touch with DU vice-chancellor Yogesh Tyagi for a comment on the survey, but he neither answered calls nor responded to a text message.

Ray said DU’s decision to conduct online exams was part of a larger effort to promote online education in universities. He said teachers were not opposed to online education as long as it supplemented the traditional mode.

The central government has decided to permit the top 100 universities to automatically start online courses. The UGC has also decided to allow universities to allow students to pursue up to 40 per cent of a course in the online mode.

“Nobody is against using technology. But this is an attempt to replace teachers with online education. Citing the Covid crises, the HRD ministry and the UGC are pushing online education. This is a great danger,” Ray said.

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