Voting has gone paperless, exams should too: Srikanth Ganeshan

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Updated: August 1, 2019 1:19:29 PM

“The aim is to reduce paper consumption by targeting a sector as large as education.”

paperless exams, LittleMore Innovation Labs, Chennai, PEXA, DigiTaal, digital exams, VVPAT systems, benefits of digital exams“We have conducted over 1.5 million paperless exams with zero loss of data and, in the process, helped save 20 million sheets of paper,” says Srikanth Ganesan, founder, LittleMore Innovation Labs. “

LittleMore Innovation Labs is a Singapore-based start-up (it has India operations and development centre in Chennai) that helps universities deliver paperless exams. It has a purpose-built device for writing (called the DigiTaal) supported by a secure ecosystem called the PEXA. “We have conducted over 1.5 million paperless exams with zero loss of data and, in the process, helped save 20 million sheets of paper,” says Srikanth Ganesan, founder, LittleMore Innovation Labs. “The aim is to reduce paper consumption by targeting a sector as large as education.” In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he shares the benefits of exams going digital. Excerpts:

India’s voting process has gone almost entirely electronic. The academic examination process, however, hasn’t. What are the reasons for half-hearted adoption of digital exams by schools, colleges, universities and even the government?

The adoption of new technology takes time. But there are frontrunners who take the lead—a few private institutions, and a government university, are the frontrunners in adopting paperless exams. Voting process went electronic as the government took the initiative to make it mandatory. Similarly, if concerned authorities support a no-paper exam policy, digital exams too will be adopted on scale.

There are concerns about electronic voting machines’ security, which, to an extent, can be verified using technology such as the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) system. Are there similar concerns in paperless testing?
Our solution has a fool-proof audit trail where every pen stroke of a student is recorded and captured. The entire chain of semester exam (descriptive questions and answers) from question paper setting to the evaluation process is recorded.

Is there data to show how much paper, and associated environmental costs due to logistics, can be saved if an exam goes paperless? Is there also data to show how much e-waste would be generated if a particular exam goes paperless?

Let’s consider the environment. India’s forest cover has declined by 29,000 sq-km over 30 years, as per a report by e-Green Watch, an initiative under the ministry of environment, forest and climate change. The World Bank noted that from 1960 to 2014, the emission of carbon dioxide in India grew from 0.3 to 1.7 metric tonnes per capita. Forest land is being converted into industrial spaces to manufacture commodities like paper, palm oil, fabrics and wood. In fact, the per capita paper consumption in India is over 13 kg a year. A digital exam process is eco-friendly (saves trees), cost-effective, saves time (an exam process cycle can be reduced by up to 75%), and eliminates logistics hurdles.

What is the meaning of “end-to-end paperless exams”?

It means that the entire exam process for descriptive questions, which are used in semester exams—from the paper being set, to evaluation and completion—does not involve use of any kind of paper.

What is the role of the PEXA in DigiTaal?

PEXA is our software ecosystem, which controls delivery of exams on DigiTaal. PEXA works on a SaaS model, with services like authoring and evaluation running on the cloud and the rest in the device.

Which all schools, colleges, universities or bodies are using DigiTaal?

Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Manipal University, IIIT-B, REVA University, VIT Vellore and Amravati, NIMHANS and others are using this solution.

Is DigiTaal able to match the speed, accuracy and convenience of pen and paper?

Yes, the DigiTaal works exactly like pen and paper. Students are allowed to familiarise themselves through basic training. They are also given a mock exam using the device prior to actual exam. Our team is always on ground for further support.

How much does the DigiTaal cost?
Pricing is subject to volumes of students, amongst other parameters, and this varies from customer to customer.

Isn’t it easier for objective-type exams to go paperless as compared to subjective-type question papers?

A good question paper has both multiple-choice questions as well as descriptive-type questions. You can’t have a solution addressing only one type of questions, and hence a great solution would be for both objective as well subjective type exams to go paperless. This is what we offer.

Who provides security for digital exams?
The entire chain is managed by us.

Which all countries have digitised their examination process entirely?

No one has done it till now, but there are universities interested in adopting this process in other parts of the world.

Were you part of the CAT going digital?

No, we were not. CAT exams only have multiple-choice questions, whereas we are addressing both descriptive as well as multiple-choice questions.

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