Grading Amidst Pandemic: Headway or Leeway?

Grading Amidst Pandemic: Headway or Leeway?

The unforeseen pandemic situation of COVID-19 has taken the wind from the sail of the traditional education system. The rapid worldwide increase of infected cases has created a sense of uncertainty about the future. A growing number of universities and colleges across the country have either postponed or cancelled all campus events, including examinations. Institutes have scurried to transfer various courses and programs from face-to-face to online mode. Colleges are taking intensive measures to prevent and protect all students and staff members from the highly infectious disease.

In light of the ongoing pandemic, National Institute of Technology, Rourkela has prioritised the students, considering their situation and their genuine problems instead of going with the blind belief of finding exams as the essential stuff. Modern problems require modern solutions!

Leading The Way Like NIT Rourkela

NIT Rourkela has been widely hailed as implementing student-centric policies since the inception of the COVID pandemic break. The institute has taken sensible decisions, from calling off classes and deciding to close down the institute early on, to end semester cancellation of the Spring session 2019-20. An official circular (dated 27th May) was circulated by the administration stating the decisions taken at the 92nd Senate Meeting to decide the fate of the semester results. Much to the relaxation of the NIT Rourkela student populace, the end semester exams were cancelled, with an option for students to appear for re-examination (Special Endsem exam) in case they weren’t satisfied with the results. It must be noted that NIT Rourkela was one of the forerunners among NITs and IITs to cancel exams, prioritise students and staff health while taking flexible decisions to end students’ dilemma (with only institutes like IIT Bombay, IIT Kanpur, and NIT Kurukshetra cancelling before NIT Rourkela did).

The institute has also been able to conduct the mid-semester re-examinations (alternative mid-semester for those with valid reasons), supplementary examination, the MBA and MA admissions and PhD seminar through online mode. In contrast, several other institutes across the nation have grappled with issues in conduction of online exams. The final year students also hailed the smooth conduction of online viva and project evaluation. The only uncertainty remained was that of clearing back-logs that were supposed to be taken up as summer courses. Pre-final year students who were required to mandatorily intern in summer 2020 are now permitted to complete their internship by 31st December, for a minimum duration of 4 weeks.

The institute library (Biju Patnaik Central Library) too did a commendable job, in making several renowned journals like IEEE remotely accessible to students.

NIT Rourkela came up with the strategised grading system to remove the hindrance and promote the students to the next semester. The Senate concluded that the end semester marks for each theory subject would be awarded out of the following two alternatives, (higher of the two):

  1. TA (out of 20) + mid-semester marks (out of 30)
  2. {(CGPA-0.5)*10}/2

The overall marks obtained in the theory subject would be: calculated end-sem marks + mid-sem marks +TA marks, and the grades will be awarded accordingly.

Whereas, the laboratory courses’ marks would be awarded based on the continuous evaluation done until the last class by scaling it up to 100.

The institute also has provisions for conducting a special end-sem examination for those who were not satisfied with any of the above formulae. The conduct of an online examination for those who missed the mid-semester (with a valid reason like medical reasons, family calamity, etc.) was lauded by the students too. Most decisions taken by the institute were swift and student-friendly with provisions for all kinds of students in place. Due to the unexpected nature of the pandemic, certain decisions were inevitable, leaving no choice to the administration and professors in grading and evaluation methods.

On this note, Team Monday Morning surveyed the students to throw light on various marking procedures and also to know the perspectives of multiple professors on this system. Though a time as uncertain as this does not allow an absolute fair grading or an outright unfair one, the effective results after grading were perceived in different ways by the respondents of our survey. 

Note: Owing to the ongoing pandemic and certain restrictions from the administration regarding sharing of this survey, the survey could only be conducted through sharing on limited platforms and the total number of respondents (after removing certain multiple entries) was 269 with around 58% of them being first-year students, 27% second-year students, 12% Third-year students and the rest were fourth-year students.

MID SEMESTER EXAMS: A BOON OR BANE FOR SGPA?

The current semester SGPA had a lot of weightage of mid-semester marks, which caused a decrease in the grades of the students that hadn’t perform well. However, giving an excuse that they were preparing hard to score better in the end-sem would be to outstrip the wind. 

The survey conducted by the Monday Morning Team included a question asking the students how mid-semester marks affected their grades and saw eclectic replies, including how it affected the same and otherwise. According to the survey, 70.3% of students didn’t know the evaluation metrics. It may happen sometimes on the part of professors to make calculation mistakes on evaluating the answer script or a few questions getting skipped being unchecked.

 

(All the references to the year of study are concerning the academic year 2019-20)

A second-year student said:

The marks I got were good. I am satisfied with that. It reflects on the effort I made.

Utkarsh Singh, a first-year undergraduate of the Department of Electronics and Instrumentation, said: 

Many students in our section including me contacted one of our subject professors for the clarification of mid-semester marks through webmail, but he didn't reply to anyone's mail. He just sent a message on NITRIS that we can see the copies when we are back in the college. The results were declared, and the marks given didn't get clarified.

To clarify the same, the team of Monday Morning (MM) went to Prof. Saroj Kumar Patel (Dean Academic Affairs) and asked the reason for not allowing to see the answer sheets (mid-semester) and not opening the marks change portal.

Prof Saroj K. Patel said, 

Many teachers have clarified the doubts of students online regarding discrepancy in mid-semester marks if they had any.

The current plight much affected the ideational learning and understanding of the fundamentals. Scrapping off the end-semester exam though, reduced the burden from the students but left essential topics to understand by themselves.

Reaching out to some Heads of Departments on the issue of how not conducting end-semester affect the grade of students, as well as the learning of the crucial topics that were left for the end, they reflect:

Prof Rama Chandra Pradhan, Head of Department of Food Process Engineering added:

Definitely, there is no alternative to physical classroom teaching. However, at the same time, we cannot avoid students' health & safety, which is crucial.

Prof Himanshu B. Sahu, Head of Department of Mining Engineering, expressed his opinions as:

I understand it will not affect much since a significant part of the syllabus was already discussed in the class.  As regards to difficulty in learning, most of the faculty are open to clear any doubts if needed.

Prof Susanta K. Sahoo, Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering also added:

Only the examination is not the parametric evaluation of a learning process. Students and teachers have to work a tad more (particularly students more) in this new situation to fill-up the gap.

TA: TEACHER’S ASSESSMENT OR TOOK ACCOUNT OF ATTENDANCE? 

The Grading system had a significant weightage of TA marks for calculating the grade in a subject. In general, the TA marks are awarded based on assignments, class tests, and viva. However, due to the unforeseen circumstances which occurred, a lot of these procedures had to be done online as the institute got closed just a few days after mid-semester exams were over. 

Even after MS Team accounts were created for everyone, the number of online classes that were taken isn’t quite appreciable. A lot of students had faced network and connectivity issues while some others complained about the unavailability of books and notes for completion of assignments. When the students were questioned about online classes in various subjects, around 60.2% of them claimed that not even one class was taken online, whereas 38.3% of the students claimed that online classes were taken in 1-2 subjects.

Pratik Priyadarshan, a sophomore from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering said,

I think although many students are happy with their grades improved, many important topics of core subjects were looked over from mid-sem onwards due to the pandemic. Some professors conducted online classes just for the sake of conducting it and repeated what they taught in the classroom. The important parts of the topic were leftover and were postponed to be taught. Once the results arrived, the professors did not care to teach those concepts, some of which are difficult for a student to understand by himself, adding to the trouble is the fact that there are hardly any sources on the internet which could clarify those fundamentals.

When the matter was taken to the Head of Department of Computer Science department, Prof. Ashok K. Turuk, he had the following to say:

At least in my department, online classes have been done. And even I have taken online classes.  At a later point in time, when the students realized that there wouldn’t be any exams, many students backed out, saying that we won’t attend any classes.

Further, Team MM gathered insights from a few more HODs and the Dean of Academic Affairs.

MM: Were the course teachers specifically asked to take online classes to complete the syllabus or did they get specific guidelines to send study materials through NITRIS and ask the students to submit assignments?

Prof Saroj K. Patel: During the lockdown period, online classes were taken until the end of the semester. You may be correct that online classes may not have been as effective as the traditional mode of classes. This happened all of a sudden, and none of it was prepared for such a situation. We learned a lot, and we are sure we will be able to improve next semester.

Prof Rama Chandra Pradhan, Head of Department of Food Processing Department: Yes, the course teachers were asked to take online classes or send materials during this COVID-19 Pandemic. This is done as per student-teacher convenience so that all students can access the study materials.

Prof Himanshu B. Sahu, Head of Department of Mining Engineering: Yes, teachers were asked to take online classes. The teachers were also asked to upload the recorded lectures on YouTube and share the link with students. I understand the teachers have shared the materials through NITRIS. For example, I have shared the course materials and assignments in NITRIS. The students submitted the assignment through the mail.

Prof Susanta K. Sahoo, Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering: Course teachers are asked to complete the course as per academic schedule using available online resources, i.e., live classes, pre-recorded classes, providing class notes, answering the doubts through the mail, WhatsApp mode, advising to go through the audio-video-text sources links in NPTEL or other sources, giving assignments and evaluating, taking viva, and others. It depends on the requirements of the subject, i.e., the nature of the subject and also the availability of facility and active participation of students (their demand).

While ambiguities related to TA marks have always been prevalent, academics turning online seemed to have increased the issues a bit more. With just two months into the spring semester, a large number of professors hadn’t taken any measures to award TA. As a result of which, online assignment submissions and class tests came into existence. But even after so much effort put in by the professors in completing the course and the students in submitting assignments, there have been numerous cases where students questioned the transparency of awarding TA marks and the process followed for the same. When the students were enquired about the method of calculation of TA marks in their batch, unsurprisingly, 58.7% of them weren’t sure about the same while a good lot of students were marked based on Assignments, Class Test and Viva. The point of concern over here is 29% of the students who were scored based on their attendance

The concern is over the plain fact that institute administration permits a specific number of absenteeism/leaves for particular course credits and is aptly so considering a student might have to take rest days in terms of absenteeism for anything urgent or emergencies. So, the question and rigid account of taking such permissible attendance (even when grade back and debar mechanism exists already to penalise absenteeism) as a criterion for TA are cumbersome. 

A sophomore said:

Professors award TA marks on basis of personal vendetta and impressions. Many of them see it as an opportunity to punish a student for a misunderstanding. Some professors are frank and disclose their evaluation process at the beginning of the course. Others choose to keep it secretive and give random marks at the end. When students approach for clarification, they hush it by saying “I gave what I felt was suitable, I don't owe you an explanation for the same.”

When asked about the criteria for allotting TA marks for a specific course, Prof. Man Mohan Garg had the following to say. 

I consider that TA marks should be evaluated based on the classroom assessment, class tests etc. TA marks of a particular student may vary based on his/her classroom performance in a particular subject. I feel that some students have a false notion that one should get the highest TA marks if s/he gets the highest marks in mid/end semester or if s/he is one of the toppers. In my opinion, if an average CGPA student maintains discipline, interacts with the teacher, takes an interest in the subject and also performs  well in class tests, then s/he should get good TA marks irrespective of his/her mid/end sem marks. I feel that few students at NITR relate TA marks with CGPA or expect high TA marks even without involving much in classroom learning which is not reasonable according to me.

Ashish Kumar, a pre-final year student from the Department of Chemical Engineering, said,

The evaluation and marking in the core subjects were alright. However, the problem which most of us faced was the grading in the subjects which are not of our branch. For instance, in a certain subject, the Professor neither took any online classes nor gave any assignments that can support the evaluation. He just gave EX to the ones with 29-30 in the midterm, A to those who got 26-28 in the midterm, and so on.

Let us have a look at what our professors had to say about these problems.

MM: There have been instances where attendance and leaves have been considered for TA. What is your take on attendance considered as TA when the institute permits that many absenteeism and leaves as per credits?

Prof Saroj K. Patel: What should be the constituents of TA is left to the concerned teacher. It may vary from teacher to teacher.  

MM: On what criteria were the marks in TA awarded? Was it possible for all students in the batch to cater to the online teaching, test/assignment mechanisms?

Prof Debajyoti Choudhary: My criteria this time at least was based on adjusting the grades to the nearest higher grade considering the benefit of the students in this alarming period. The semester was only in its middle when everything went helter-skelter. There wasn’t enough scope for assessing a student. I didn’t find the MS Team to be good enough to reach out to a class of 100 odd students.

Prof S. N. Alam: In my subject, the TA marks were solely based on Mid Semester marks and CGPA. However, I used both the formulas and checked that the grades were the same in both cases. Very few students have discussed with me that they could have got a better grade. However, after discussion, they were convinced that they were awarded perfectly under the present situation. Online teaching is not available to all as we need a broadband connection that is not available to all. There are challenging times where I have to reach the student by any means. The difficulties of students have to be considered. 

Prof Paresh Kale: It is expected from us to do a continuous evaluation, which means we are supposed to take class tests and give regular assignments. As far as my subject is concerned, I took some tests before this COVID-19 thing happened. Based on that, TA marks were awarded. This is the importance of continuous evaluation. It helps when the situation goes to an extreme like in this case. It may happen to everyone. A student may fall sick after say, mid semesters. In that case, the continuous evaluation will help him/her. An engineering student thinks that engineering is all about a one-night study before the exams. But this isn’t something quite appreciable, in my opinion. So if continuous evaluation happens, the student stays in touch with his studies every time, and the load is reduced multi-folds. 

He continued,

Considering the assignment submissions and tests, there might be some drawbacks considering online teaching. Everyone doesn't necessarily have access to live video lectures or whatever. For B.Tech Courses, there are pre-recorded lectures available in NPTEL. In my knowledge, there are very few places where there is a serious problem of internet connectivity, given the remote locations. But sometimes, for studies, you need to compromise a few things. I believe the connectivity issues can be solved if you move to some good network location. Some students have done it as well. In a proper classroom, if a student isn’t able to catch up with the professor, then he has all these resources available to revise the topics. For students like these, academics turning online isn’t a big problem. In another way, people who don’t want to learn, for them, this pandemic is like an excuse to study. It happened in some places like NIT Trichy, where students took advantage of the situation and made excuses for not giving exams. This is happening everywhere. They play games, watch movies, binge watch series all night. But when it comes to studying, they find excuses. These things happen on campus as well.

There is a 50-50 case related to the satisfaction of students with the TA marks. When criteria such as attendance or impression are taken into account while marking, it is inevitable for the students to question the procedure of awarding TA. Apart from the ambiguities, the Grading system has provided satisfactory results to a majority of the students. The professors are to be thanked for considering the situation and providing some relaxation while marking. Team MM contacted some professors to be informed about their take over marking.

MM: What type of marking should be followed by all the professors while checking papers or awarding TA, considering these difficult times? Should there be any relaxation?

Prof Paresh Kale: The guidelines are already given in our rule book. We can provide assignments, tests, and whatnot. There is a platform called Moodle, which is unknown to many. In that platform, all these things can happen with ease. I believe these means are more than enough to evaluate students continuously. So there is no question of relaxation. There should not be any lack of data for the professor to avoid giving marks.

Prof S. N. Alam: I feel attendance is already taken into account in grade back/debar policies. So we need not consider attendance for TA marks. However, under the present situation, all the classes were not held, so grade back, and debarring were not given, I feel. Therefore, under these conditions, TA marks can consider attendance as a criterion as it was not used for evaluation. Apart from this, mid-semester marks should be used for TA.

Prof Debajyoti Choudhary: The institute administration has been extremely liberal in the formula they devised to award the end semester marks, which even saw a large chunk of students who were potentially expecting an F grade got a relatively better grade. TA has always been at the disposal of the concerned faculty, and I will not support a uniform mechanism for it.  

PRACTICALS: GRADES GIVEN PRACTICALLY?

Now proceeding towards the grading system followed in the practical courses, we asked a few questions in the survey concerning the grading system followed in practical courses. Most of the practical/laboratory subjects gave grades based on the continuous evaluation done during the classes, attendance, and viva taken during the classes. However, with just two months into the spring semester of 2019-20, it wasn’t possible to take all these into account for some laboratories, where there wasn’t a regular evaluation/viva for final evaluation. Hence, we could see a set of mixed reactions from the respondents.

We asked whether the students were conscious of the evaluation process in their practicals. In the poll, a whopping 61% of our respondents replied in negation.  

Out of students who were informed about the evaluation process, 58.9% said that their grades were evaluated based on previous class performances, 13.7% said they were given assignments during holidays, while 37.7% said there was no ground for evaluation and that the grades were assigned randomly. Hence, the grading in practical courses could have been more transparent, thereby improving the perceptions of fairness and consistency of marking.

Some students who were asked to submit online assignments or give online viva encountered a few problems either due to poor network connectivity in their area or because of sundry other reasons, in these challenging times.

Sujit Kumar, a pre-final year from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said:

So once the administration told us that there wouldn't be any end semester paper this time, professors started taking viva, giving assignments, etc. We are at home, and some of us don't have our laptops. I had to ask someone else to submit my assignment as I wasn't able to operate Moodle properly with my phone. For one of our practicals, the professor asked us to submit a report of 5-6 pages explaining what and how we proceeded in our practicals, including the product we have made, start-up strategy, and patent application writing. It's quite difficult if your lab notebooks aren't there with you.

A final year student had the following to say:

Some laboratory subjects' grades were unsatisfactory without there being any assessment for it. How does the professor determine which student should get an Ex, and another should get B? This happened in the spring semester of 19-20. The viva being taken from in-depth course knowledge without the students having any study material and the grades being given solely on that one viva and by completely ignoring the work that was done during the lab days.

As per the survey, the pie chart depicted above denotes the percentage of people satisfied with their grades in practical/laboratory subjects. A majority of students (46.1%) seem dissatisfied with their grades assigned to them in their practical courses, while 39% were satisfied with their grades. The reason behind the dissatisfaction could be targeted to the lack of transparency in a few laboratory courses which some of the students encountered. While there exists some vagueness related to this matter, many students are content with the grades given by the professors, who considered the current circumstances and granted some relaxation while marking.

The respondents of the survey expressed their mixed opinions addressing their issues:

Harsh Mohan, a pre-final year student from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, shares his views:

To me, the grading pattern had been fair. Moreover, if anyone has any problem with the grades assigned, he/she has all right to ask for clarification, and if (people are) not satisfied, they have the full liberty to choose for re-examination. For the practical courses, it can only be said that even if we have a complete semester, there is only so much transparency. The only thing people could have done then is to approach their respective professors, and that is open now too. So, creating an unnecessary fuss about grades is unreasonable to me. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that the major motive behind publishing results based on normalisation has been to make sure that final year students do not suffer or lose their jobs like the universities under UGC which are having these issues.

On the contrary, a pre-final year student had the following complaint regarding the system:

In a practical course, a part of the marks was substituted by marks of a previous semester practical course. The content of this practical course was very new to us. It is possible some of the students who were doing good in this one may not have done great in the previous one. As there was no daily evaluation this time, students who were doing good but didn't have a good grade last time got less grade than expected. While for theory courses, a blanket was given for students with less CGPA, by taking the best of CGPA and Midsem+TA marks, this wasn't a case for practical courses, where such an evaluation process was followed.

A sophomore had the following to say:

In one of the laboratories, the evaluation process was fair. There was a viva taken, and previous lab performance evaluation was also considered. But for another lab, we were asked what our CGPA was a few days before the results were announced, and grading was done based on that, which is unfair.

Note: A Google form was circulated by the respective TA of the lab for collecting CGPAs but whether or not marking was done based on that is merely an assumption from student’s side. 

Team MM talked to the Dean of Academic Affairs about the students who faced some problems. Here’s what he has to say:

MM: There have been instances in practical courses where the grades were given randomly as there weren’t any assessments conducted to date. What is your take on this?

Prof S K Patel: Each practical class is normally graded. So, we considered those evaluations. We did not receive any such complaints.

Team MM had a conversation with Prof K Ratna Subhashini, a professor in the Analog Electronics lab, to know about her perspectives over practical subjects marking.

MM: What was the evaluation process followed for marking grades in practicals?

Prof. K. Ratna Subhashini: In the Analog Electronics lab, which I have handled, three more experiments were to be performed by the students, which could not be possible because of the sudden shutdown. So, the evaluation process was based on RECORD+VIVA+ATTENDANCE, which were recorded for the completed experiments. Viva was conducted every week, so that was considered for the final grading.

MM: How did the closure of the institute affect the learning essentials of the labs?

Prof K. Ratna Subhashini: It affected a lot; normally 30% weightage was given for a mini project which used to be a part of the Analog Electronics lab. Students were re-divided into groups of two or three and were given small tasks in short as a product development laboratory. This semester I couldn’t give that task to my students. Also, I used to conduct lab tests towards the end for individual students, which also used to be a part of the grade deciding component.

 

It can be inferred that a majority from the people who opted for the survey did not get a chance to seek clarifications about their assigned grades.

Aniket Pal, a freshman, had the following complaint:

The marks change option is not being shown this time. In one of the laboratories, I did everything before the assigned time, but I got a D grade. When I contacted the professor, he said to apply for marks change and that he would surely change it but, the option is not available.

Another first-year student opines:

In one of the labs, although I did very well and excelled in all the tasks, due to the mistake of TA in uploading marks in the portal, I, as well as some of my friends, in spite of our sincere efforts, were awarded D grade. This happened in a particular practical lab, and concerned authorities are not even bothered to look into the matter or investigate what might have happened or if some mistake has occurred, then how it can be rectified, so that we people don't suffer because of it.

RE-EXAMINATION: A RISK WORTH THE EFFORT?

Re-examination is designed for the students who were not satisfied with the results of the last semester. It was taken into consideration because of the cancellation of the end semester exams owing to the unforeseen pandemic of COVID-19. The students who weren’t satisfied with the marks of any particular subject can choose to appear the re-exam, whose results would be taken as the final without any discrepancies.

According to the survey conducted by team MM, about 39.8% of students were unsatisfied with their results. But of that, only a mere 30.8% were ready to take up the re-examination.

Karan Agarwal, a first-year student, stated:

I am not satisfied with the TA marks which I received; that doesn’t mean I will appear for re-examination. Also, we will have to cover up the whole syllabus for re-examination.

A sophomore conveyed his opinion as: 

What's the use, then we will be asked to write the examination with full syllabus which were never covered and the TA marks will be the same which would instead make the grade worse.

A fresher expressed his views stating: 

Sitting at home, we can't see what's going on there. So, how can we rely on the results even after re-examination!

Team MM went forward to questioning a few HODs regarding their views on the overall grading system. 

MM: What is your take over not conducting end sem exams and awarding normalised marks?

Prof Ashok K. Turuk: It was impossible to conduct the end semester exams. There were two options: either the students have to come to the campus, and then the exams would be conducted, which will indeed create difficulties to start the next semester. We don’t know when the students are going to come. So, the conduction of end sem exams was not possible.

Normalisation is usually done when the exams held are different. Let’s consider the +2 exam. There are several 30-40 boards, such as CBSE, ISC, and many others. In that case, Normalisation is needed. But in our case, there was only one exam. And there is only one way of evaluation. So, Normalisation is not required. In our case, the formula was used to compute the marks. So there’s no normalisation here.

Prof Rama Chandra Pradhan: As per the Government guidelines & looking into the COVID situation, I think there was no option left, so no end semester exam was conducted. And as per the decision of the Senate, grades were normalised.

Prof Himanshu B. Sahu: The decision to not conduct the end semester examination and award normalised marks were taken because of the pandemic situation due to COVID-19 as well as the guidelines from MHRD so that students will not suffer. In any case, if a student is not satisfied, she/he may appeal for physical examination.

Prof Susanta K. Sahoo: Although it is not an ideal method, we have to move ahead and keep the momentum and timeline. Participation of both teachers and students are required to make it perfect.

No doubt, there is a loss in regards to the effective learning of the students, but there were both positive and negative effects on the grades of the students as derived from the opinions of students. However, the fact of taking the re-examination marks as the finalised one is considered as “not so good move.” 

With a set of questions, team MM went ahead to seek answers from Dean AA, Prof Saroj K. Patel, to have better transparency about the queries regarding re-examination. He believes that re-examination should be taken when one is absolute of the mind for improvement. Further details about the procedure are awaited.

The Student Representative’s Opinion

We contacted the student representative to the Senate, Soumya Mohanty discerning the re-examination procedure and the formula formulated to calculate the SGPA of the current semester.

MM: How a conclusion came to design such a formula? Were the opinions of students and professors took into consideration?

Soumya Mohanty(SM): The idea of using a formula in calculation of SGPA was already discussed among teachers. It was clear that we cannot conduct physical examination (I cannot confirm the platform as I was not a part of it). We had also asked students to give suggestions on a common platform. We received many concerns from both 3rd and 4th years regarding concluding the semester as early as possible.

This very formula went up for discussion in the Senate where 100 members were present including all HODs, TnP Head and deans. So it is based on considering everything and consulting all stakeholders. All the CRs from different branches across all years of study were consulted through a common platform even after public availability of the formula, and we got no objection or representations from anyone opposing this formula (as far as I know).

Anyone can look up how the TA component is calculated in the regulation and may contact his respective professor if the mark change portal opens. Some timeline concerns and few kinds of stuff were raised which dean sir had replied. We even included a re-examination for aggrieved students.

If you look back, this decision turned out to be very prudent and prescient as we are yet to resume college. Even some HRD guidelines also came in between how to evaluate in case COVID-19 becomes worse.

The guidelines issued by the Ministry of HRD:

In case the situation does not appear to be normal given COVID-19, to maintain social distancing, safety, and health of the college students grading could be a composite of 50% marks based on the pattern of internal evaluation adopted by the universities and the remaining 50% marks based on performance in the previous semester (if available)

- Dated: 05th May 2020, 20:26

MM: If a student gives re-examination, and he scores more, clears the cut-offs for branch change and minor degree, what would be the rule followed in such a situation?

SM: The student may score more given the amount of time he will get for a particular subject (almost one semester), then, in that case, the student needs to contact the academic office for branch change or minor degree.

A Comparative Analysis

In almost all the premier institutes of India, either exam was conducted online, or grades were given based on previous assessments. Except a few, none of them considered the previous semester SGPA for grading the students for Spring 2019-20. As justified as it seems to be, almost all the institutes had also conducted surveys among the students and faculties to know their perspective on the decision about to be taken. In both these ways, there is a weightage of the student’s opinion and student’s benefit. Though a re-examination system is available for improvement, the risk of the existing grade being even further reduced is what is pulling back students from looking forward to it.

Let’s have a look at how some institutes have amended their systems for the collective good. 

IIT BOMBAY

IIT Bombay was the first Indian Institute to cancel end semester exams and grade the students based on mid-semesters and internal exams. The Senate surveyed to know the opinions of all the students and professors regarding the decisions to be taken. The institute provided the students with the utmost benefits and opportunities to increase their grade in case they weren’t satisfied. Instructors permitted to conduct an additional evaluation using a suitable online mode for a maximum weightage of 20%, provided all registered students can avail the same. For the students who aren’t satisfied with the grades, they will be provided with a temporary satisfactory ‘S’ grade. They will be given a chance to increase it to higher grades by appearing in a re-examination which will be held after the institute reopens. This particular ‘S’ grade will not be considered while calculating the SGPA.

IIT KHARAGPUR

The institute surveyed to gather opinions of all the students and professors before arriving at any decision regarding the cancellation of exams. The survey had some questions like 

  1. Do you want the end semester exams to be conducted online?

  2. Is the internet connectivity good enough in your location to cater to the needs of online classes or exams?

  3. Do you want us to provide you with temporary grades which can be changed after a re-examination?

The institute arrived at a decision which graded the students solely based on mid-semester exams and assignments. The total marks out of 100 were calculated by adding 60% of mid-semester marks + 40% assignments and class tests marks. 

NIT SURATHKAL

Various subjects were given different weightage based on subject matter and difficulty. As an example, if mid-semester marks in a particular subject are given 40% weightage, then assignments and class tests of the same subject are given 60% weightage and vice-versa. Students were also asked to submit online assignments which had around 20% of weightage in the final grading. A survey was also conducted by the Senate, which asked for opinions of students and teachers regarding cancellation of exams. 

ISM DHANBAD

Apart from the survey conducted by the respective Senate, the institute had made quite appreciable amendments to benefit the student community to the maximum. For quizzes or assignments which couldn’t be conducted, students were marked based on average marks of the previous assignments. End semester marks in any subject will be given w.r.t. the percentage of marks attained in mid-semesters. If any course had attendance as a criterion for grading, then full marks were awarded for that. To account for the probability of improvement in the quizzes which couldn’t be conducted, the grades were bumped to the next higher grade. 

CONCLUSION

The whole COVID-19 pandemic was not anticipated by anyone and has brought in numerous problems to one and all. Everywhere work is either at a standstill or happening online. There are some apparent complications with online teaching, be it submissions, interaction, connectivity, etc. While obscurities with TA marks and practical marks have always been a topic of discussion amongst the students, the grading has indeed provided results that have satisfied a majority of the students. Though the system of re-examination doesn’t seem reasonable to some students, there is still a chance given to them for improvement. Hence, it is good to appreciate the professors to consider these difficult times and provide a bit of relaxation. Amidst various circumstances, the show must go on!

NOTE: Certain names have accounted to be anonymous for their responses.

Team MM expresses its gratitude to all the professors, students, and the Senate for seamlessly progressing to the next semester without any significant discrepancies.

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