Evaluation in Online Learning: Knowing Our Counterparts
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected a substantial chunk of India’s education system. In the wake of this emergency caused due to the epidemic, the government had to take possible precautionary steps to curb the spread of the disease one of which includes shutting down educational institutes, vacating hostels and postponing entrance examinations. This is the first time in the records of the Indian educational institutes that a new academic year had to start with no students on campus. Almost all the top educational institutions of India have made drastic changes to their academic policies along with effortlessly shifting to an online teaching-learning procedure to ensure balance and convenience for students.
Colleges are taking significant measures to ensure learning continuity and minimal academic loss. While some institutes undertook a continuous evaluation approach with regular assignments, quizzes and presentations, others preferred online proctored examinations for grading.
With this article, Team Monday Morning brings a comprehensive analysis of the different evaluation methods and policies being adopted by the premier educational institutions all over the country for grading students in the Autumn Semester of 2020-21. Let's have a look at how some institutes have amended their systems for the collective good.
Classes for the Autumn semester 2020-2021 commenced on 4th August and continued till 20th November on virtual mode.
After taking the views of students, faculties and studying the situation, it was decided by the administration that no mid-semester examination would be conducted. Further, the institute decided in favour of conducting the end-semester examination in conventional (offline) mode only after students return to the institute. Furthermore, it was also decided that there won’t be any continuous evaluation to compensate for mid/end semester examination.
Monday Morning (MM), in collaboration with Institute Counselling Services (ICS), NIT Rourkela conducted an extensive survey to collect individual feedback and suggestions of students of NIT Rourkela regarding online classes and examinations. Yet another poll was conducted by MM under the direction of the Dean Academics for enquiring the best course of action to be taken up for continuing the Online Semester. The poll received a considerable response (1929 student responses), and more than 56% of students wanted robust improvements in modalities of conducting classes and labs. An article was published with a lot of suggestions and recommendations for the betterment of the online semester based on the survey and poll results. However, in the end, it did not precisely influence the academic decisions of the institute. Click here to refer to the article.
NIT Rourkela tried to prioritise the network and electricity issues and other genuine problems of students. However, questions about the feasibility of taking exams of the Autumn semester after the institute reopens while the studies of another semester shall be going on still lingers. Postponing the end-semester exams may have some severe repercussions on the students as they may have to appear for two end-semester exams in the next semester if the institute reopens (one for Autumn and one for Spring semester). As the students won’t be getting their grade sheet of this semester until the exams are conducted, it may seem like a stumbling block for students who plan to apply for internships, jobs or other opportunities which may require their grade cards.
IIT Delhi’s online classes for Semester-I, 2020-21 commenced on the 28th of September with students located off-campus. Institute supports two platforms for course content delivery: Impartus and MS Teams. The semester schedule has 60 teaching days (instead of 70 teaching days). Teaching is done either by using live online sessions (synchronous mode) or by providing video recorded lectures/ tutorials (in an asynchronous manner).
Owing to the current situation, the institute decided to conduct one Minor Evaluation and one Major Evaluation instead of their usual two Minors and one Major examination. The full marks and weightage of the Minor and Major examination vary from course to course. Given a different way of conducting these evaluations with remotely located students, the institute decided that the exam schedule will include only the end-time of the examination. The exam can start at any suitable time before the end-time, ensuring that it does not overlap with the previously scheduled slot. The Minor Tests were successfully conducted from 8th to 11th November via Gradescope and Moodle, and the Major tests are to be held from the 6th of January 2021.
The institute suggested the professors conduct a mock drill with students on the adopted mode of exam to iron out any issues associated with the method of exam.
IIT Delhi managed to pull off their online evaluations and classes somewhat smoothly, even when steady internet connectivity is still a significant problem in many parts of the country. The semester, however, stands delayed and is supposed to end in the 1st week of January, rather than conventionally ending in November, owing to the late commencement of classes (compared to most of the other institutes).
IIT Bombay started its online semester on the 10th of August. Classes, assignments and Quizzes were conducted in the SAFE app (created by the institute), MS Teams, Cisco Webex, Moodle and Google Meet.
The end-semester examinations (having weightage of up to 80% in some courses) began on 21st November via online mode. However, after incidents of copying were brought to the notice of the institute director, IIT-Bombay recently ordered a re-examination of the course, conducted on November 22. The particular exam was left un-proctored due to an emergency faced by the Instructor. Despite the apparent necessity of online exams, incidents like these are considered the major drawbacks of conducting examinations online. The faculties have been asked to suggest an alternate method of conducting exams securely, whereas students have also been asked to pass on information about loopholes of the system.
The online classes for the semester commenced on 1st September. Although most IITs preferred a continuous basis of evaluation, IIT Kanpur remained firm in the decision of conducting mid-semester and end-semester examinations for the ongoing semester. However, the Instructor has the choice to opt for continuous evaluation instead. Online exams, term papers, in-video assignments, pop-quizzes, take-home assignments, online viva-voce etc. are supposed to be considered for the evaluation process. The classes and tests are being conducted on a portal exclusive to IIT Kanpur called Hello IITK. To make for the academic loss, the institute has also decided against the mid-semester break in the upcoming session. Mid-semester examinations were conducted from October 12th, and end-semester examinations would be held from December 10th, both through online mode.
The semester commenced a little late in comparison to many of the other institutes, yet the institute has planned to complete the semester without any hold-ups.
IIT Kharagpur decided to evaluate the students on a continuous-evaluation basis. There was no mid-semester or end-semester examination conducted in the semester. Classes commenced from the 1st of September (for all except the 1st year UG students). The last date for completing all classes, including sessionals, class tests, etc. was on 24th November.
The semester was delayed due to the pandemic situation. Yet, the classes wrapped up on 20th November but the students were engaged in tests and quizzes till 24th of Nov.
The July Session semester started on 25th August with a total number of 80 working days, through Microsoft Teams. The First Assessment of the semester was held from 5th October and the Second Assessment from 22nd October. The Final Assessment for the semester is supposed to end on 11th December. The institute also has scheduled Compensation Assessment examinations from 18th November. In case one misses any one of the First or Second Assessment tests, he/she can appear in the Compensation Assessment.
Unlike most of the institutes, NIT-T is one of the few colleges which stuck to the usual timetable for conduction of classes and examinations for B.Tech students and has planned to end the semester well in time. However, the decision of conducting exams in the conventional schedule seems a bit hectic for the students considering the current situation, network connectivity issues and the reduced time duration of the semester.
IIT VARANASI (BHU)
The institute’s online odd semester for 2020-2021 commenced on 10th August through Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom. Laboratory courses were deferred to later semesters if not possible through online mode. For courses having both theory and laboratory components, the theory part was decided to be conducted while the laboratory component, if not possible online, would be deferred for the future. IIT BHU further decided that till the laboratory component of the course is completed, a provisional grade P is awarded to all students who have appeared in the examination, and the grade will be updated after the laboratory component is completed and evaluated. The institute adopted the continuous evaluation approach. Theoretical/computational or projects which could be done remotely were preferred for the B.Tech/IDD projects. The tentative day of declaration of results is 23rd December 2020.
The institute’s decision to evaluate students majorly through Assignments and quizzes proved beneficial for students with internet connectivity issues.
The institute’s online Monsoon Semester 2020-2021 commenced on 2nd September through Cisco Webex platform. The continuous evaluation approach was adopted with a schedule to complete 30% of total assessment by 16th October, 60% by 20th November and 80% by 11th December. The institute has planned to conduct online end-semester examinations with a weightage of 20% of total assessment from 14th to 24th of December. The tentative date for result declaration is 6th January 2021.
MNNIT started its online semester on 10th August (for 3rd and 5th-semester students) and on 21st August (for 7th-semester students). The evaluation of mid-semester was done via quizzes and assignments. Different subjects were given different weightage based on the subject matter.
The institute informed its students that the end-semester examination of the Autumn Semester of 2020-21 would be held in online mode. MNNIT further clarified that in the first phase, the end semester examination of B.Tech (3rd and 5th semesters), M.Sc (3rd semester), would be held, starting from November 23rd.
The evaluation of lab courses will be done via practical exams and viva. All practical exams are scheduled to be held from November 23rd to 28th, and all theory exams, during Dec 1st to 7th.
For end-semester evaluation, the institute decided on giving a total weightage of 40 marks to theory and 20 marks to viva. The questions of the theory exam will be circulated via MS Teams. The theory exam will have a duration of 2 hours with additional 20 minutes for making pdf and sending the handwritten answers. The viva would be taken individually by the professors of respective courses.
It can be said that MNIT, Allahabad has managed to keep its academic calendar pretty much intact despite the ravaging issues.
The institute’s online Autumn semester started on the 8th of August via Microsoft Teams. The mid-semester exam for the concerned semester was replaced by two quizzes of 10 marks each, two objective type tests of 10 marks each and two assignments of 10 marks each. The regular classes for the semester ended on the 19th of November. NIT Patna is planning to carry out viva voce, practical exams and project evaluations for all UG students from 28th November to 1st December. The institute has scheduled to conduct its end-semester examinations from 2nd to 10th December. The students would be getting 3 hours for writing the examination and 30 minutes for uploading.
NIT Patna has given a very clear-cut mark distribution for the evaluation of all the courses in this semester. The time required to upload answer sheets due to large file size and poor network issues were well-kept in mind.
Two Sides of a Coin
Well-structured online learning experiences are sensibly different from courses offered online in response to a pandemic. Needless to say, it is very important for institutes striving to teach their students during the COVID-19 pandemic to understand those differences when evaluating this emergency remote teaching. While classes are about imparting knowledge, exams, especially in the context of Indian education, are about evaluation and competition.
Continuous evaluations, online proctored examinations and conventional offline exams are the most common methodologies adopted by the institutes for evaluation of the online semester.
- Regular assignments and quizzes have ensured that students practice and grasp concepts without procrastinating things for later. However, increased assignments have resulted in a substantial increase in pressure on students.
- It comes as a relief for students with network issues and for those students whom it is financially challenging to afford multiple devices for proctored examinations.
- It has been observed that there has been an increase in plagiarism among students. Due to the increased load of assignments and regular deadlines, students fall prey to the tendency to copy-paste things.
The continuous evaluation approach is one of the most common changes we can see in the new academic evaluation process. Institutes like IIT Kharagpur, IIT BHU, NIT Calicut and many more have adopted this approach rather than conducting mid-semester or end-semester exams. Even when this method ensures that the student invests considerable time in studying, preparing and building on academic skills, this system can sometimes put a tremendous pressure pushing students off to the edge. The reduced duration of the semester and the increased load of assignments, tests, and projects have been a bit of a burden for the students, especially considering the time of a global pandemic.
Online Proctored Examinations
- It is challenging for families with financial difficulties to afford personal laptops, uninterrupted power supply and high-speed internet connectivity for proctored examinations.
- There have been instances of system failures. It isn't easy to monitor and proctor students on a single platform on a large scale.
- The online semester has brought a sharp increase in instances of academic malpractice with it. Seeing how easy it is to bypass pretty much any form of remote proctoring, cheating is an obvious move for many.
- However, during a period where in-person contact comes with many risks, online exams are a great way of maintaining momentum in education and ensuring the learning process doesn’t ground to a halt.
- Most students don't have the luxury of having a separate workspace where they can take up 2-3 hours long proctored examinations with complete focus and concentration without any interruptions.
Many colleges across the country have adopted online examinations for the students, even as they remain unsure about it. Yet, institutes like IIT Delhi, NIT Trichy, IIT Kanpur and many more managed to pull off their online evaluations and classes somewhat smoothly, even when steady internet connectivity is still a significant problem in many parts of the country. However, online exams mustn't be run in a mode that is vulnerable to cheating, hence, the instances of cheating during an online exam are very probable, like in the case of IIT Bombay. The situation can be improved by using AI (Artificial Intelligence) models for automated proctoring. AI proctoring would enable automatic identification of cases of cheating, thereby removing the major flaw of the system.
Offline Conventional Examinations
Online examinations and continuous evaluations have room for plagiarism, which can question the quality of the graduate outcome of the institute. In such scenarios, conventional offline examinations seem to be a viable option.
However, there are large clouds of uncertainty looming around the return of students to campus. Meanwhile postponing exams and upholding the semester results till the return makes it the road less travelled among the institutes. The decision comes as a hurdle for those availing internships and other opportunities which require one's grade sheet till the last attended semester.
Online exams are comparatively a new system, and many are unaware of its use and application. Hence there is a fair amount of resistance from students and institutes, and instead, they prefer conventional offline examinations.
The COVID-19 outbreak has brought lives around the world to a virtual standstill, and the students are caught in the eye of a storm. Institutions all over the country pulled off a remarkable transition this semester, shifting instructions they had previously been delivering predominantly in-person to an almost entirely remote experience for pretty much everybody. However, we can say that the colleges have more or less found a way to successfully manoeuvre the situation, by analysing and establishing new methods to impart knowledge, securely conduct exams, and fairly evaluate performance.
Team MM accolades the efforts of the institutes and expresses its gratitude to all the teaching, non-teaching staff and the students for their dedication and hard work in these testing times.