Delhi University’s online open book exams begin; Students face problems with portals, coordination

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August 11, 2020 1:10 PM

35,000 students appeared for the exam on Monday but it would be difficult to say how many of them submitted their answers using the portal and how many used email.

This format of exams was contested by several people and petitions were also filed.This format of exams was contested by several people and petitions were also filed.

Delhi University examinations: The online Open Book Examinations (OBE) of the Delhi University began on Monday and the first day saw a horde of glitches as students raised issues regarding the access to the exam portal, problem with the question papers and difficulty in uploading the answer sheets, a report by IE said. Several students also said that due to connectivity and server issues, they missed their deadlines and were now worried if their submissions would be considered at all. Several students with visual impairments did not appear for the exams altogether.

The report quoted Sanjeev Singh of DU’s Computer Centre as saying that while 35,000 students appeared for the exam on Monday, it would be difficult to say how many of them submitted their answers using the portal and how many used email.

The university is holding online open book examinations for the first time and it was made important due to the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown. Before this, the university also held mock tests in three phases and problems were also faced by the students then. This format of exams was contested by several people and petitions were also filed against it, but on August 7, the Delhi High Court gave the university the go-ahead to conduct exams through this medium.

The report cited DU officials as saying that the problems regarding uploading of answer sheets emerged because while students uploaded the sheets, they did not submit them. The official said that several cases of such kind were witnessed at the centre, adding that while some cases could be due to connectivity issues, the website was otherwise working fine.

The official further said that since the university got emails in huge numbers, the confirmation response emails got stuck in the queue. But the students would receive the mails, the official said.

A student at the Campus Law Centre of the university said that he is in Rajasthan at the moment, and his area was witnessing heavy rains. Due to the resultant connectivity problems, his attempts to upload the 16-page answer sheets kept failing and then he decided to mail them. But he was only able to submit his response half an hour after the deadline, and now, he was unsure if his responses would be entertained.

The report further quoted students of BA Programme at the Satyawati College who were appearing for the technical writing paper as saying that they received the question papers via mail at 11 am even as the exam was scheduled for 3.30 pm. A teacher told IE that they received calls from panicking students, and when they tried to get in touch with nodal officers to ascertain what had happened, they could not find out anything. Several students started attempting the papers and when they tried to upload the sheets at 1 pm, the portal was closed. Then, the teacher added, at 3 pm, the students received a different question paper which they had to attempt. So in a sense, the students had to appear twice for the same exam, the teacher said.

On the other hand, visually impaired students had several problems like lack of accessible learning material, scribes or assistive technology, the report stated.

A final-year student of MA English at St Stephen’s College, Deepak Kumar Gupta was quoted by the report as saying that he was in his village in Bihar and ever since the students first received the notification regarding OBE in May, he sent emails to several authorities requesting accessible learning material but did not receive any response. Apart from that, even writing exams physically was not possible for him since no one in his family or village could write English well, and therefore he needed a competent scribe.

The report quoted a CLC student as saying that current and previous students were set to appear for the paper for ‘professional ethics’. However, when they logged into the portal, two question papers were available and both read ‘old course’. The questions in one of those papers was similar to their new course and therefore, students started attempting it at 9.30 am. At 10.45 am, they received three question papers via mail, two for the old course and one for the new course. But since students were already attempting the papers, they did not see the mail and just submitted the one they were attempting. Now they are worried as to what will happen, the student said.

The report added that students of MA History got a message on the portal that there was no exam scheduled for the day. Head of the History Department and nodal officer for OBE Sunil Kumar was quoted by the report as saying that students reached him by mail and finally things settled down. He added that while it was too early to talk about OBE, he had no doubt about the challenges in attempting such an ambitious task with inadequate infrastructure.

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