SKOCH Award Nominee
Category: Inspirational or Transformational Performance during COVID – Other
Sub-Category: subInspirational or Transformational Performance during COVID – Other
Project: Online Proctored Examination for Polytechnics
Start Date: 2021-07-15
Organisation: West Bengal State Council of Technical and Vocational Education and Skill Development
Respondent: Mr Sandip Kundu, Senior Administrative officer (Technical Education Division)
Level: Premium Plus
Online Proctored Polytechnic Exams Improve Education During Covid
The Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly the biggest modern public healthcare crisis the world has seen. The sheer scale at which the virus spread has impacted every aspect of life, from individual safety and health to public and political administration. The Education and Skill Development niches have also been badly impacted by the pandemic.
All Polytechnic educational and training institutions had to close down because of the pandemic. As virtual platforms and methods became more popular, students had to move to the learn-from-home system and eventually also appear for examinations while at home. Given the challenges post by the remote, at-home setting, it was soon observed that home-based online examinations could easily result in malpractice and manipulation on either end of the examination and evaluation process. It so transpired that all the students scored similar marks even though individual levels of preparation and studying were obviously different from person to person. As such, students began to mistrust the evaluation process. It became apparent to the department that it was essential to create transparency and trust in the educational institutions.
Social, economic and geographic disparities also created serious hurdles at this time. Students living in remote parts of the state did not have access to the kind of Internet connectivity and speeds needed to be able to successfully appear for the online exams. Those from Economically Weaker Sections also struggled with poor Internet connections or a total lack of them.
The administration devised a solution in the form of online proctored evaluations for semester exams. The Council arranged workshops for faculty members to help build confidence in the new system. The faculty members were then instructed to pass on this information to the students and other stakeholders in subsequent workshops. Students who did not appear for the first internal exam round were allowed to do so in a concession round again. In order to account for poor Internet connectivity, students were permitted to spend time off-camera for up to 5% of the total exam period. An extra 30 minutes was also given for uploading answer sheets so that poor Internet speeds and disturbances did not create problems.
The new system allowed continuity of education and examinations whilst observing pandemic safety and distancing protocols. The system was proven to be transparent and fair, which helped built trust in the entire process. Students have been encouraged to prepare well and work hard and conduct themselves honestly during the exam. Assistance to students from the Educationally Weaker Sections helped make the entire system inclusive.
When the first internal proctored exam was conducted, about 6% of the student body did not participate. Many challenges had to be addressed to boost student confidence and participation in the new system.
Most people were anxious about Internet failure, glitches and slow speeds. Students were pre-emptively advised to ensure proper Internet connectivity by making preparations in advance and appearing for the exams from a place where they could eb certain of the same.
Since as many as 30% of the student body hail from economically weaker families, it wasn’t always possible for them to access devices with cameras for the exams. This posed quite a challenge in ensuring transparency and fairness during the process.
The responsibility of explaining the new examination system rested on the faculties of each institution. The Council does not communicate directly with scholars and so, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the new approach was not guaranteed. Inevitably, the methods employed by some instructors failed to meet the mark and students were left confused or worried about the system, which created resistance and non-cooperation. Students did not have clarity about the kind of devices needed to be able to appear for the exams and the Internet bandwidth and connectivity requirements.
The existing G-Suite for Education apps was optimised for conducting online proctored examples. Students belonging to the same disciplines were sent multiple Google Meet links for the G Suite to create a virtual exam hall and mimic the conventional setting. Several proctors were appointed for each exam so that different tasks like distributing the question and monitoring the students could all be completed successfully.
Students were mandated to stay on-camera. Proctors monitored their actions and background proceedings during the exam to ensure compliance with the expected code of conduct.
The examinations were recorded and stored in case any RTI-related requests are made in the future.
The Council is working on establishing a CBE system and attempting to integrate a proctored system into the same. The rationale behind this decision is that it appears that the Covid-19 pandemic may be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. And as such, institutions have to adapt to this new reality in a manner that supports efficient functioning and not just making do, as was the case in the early months of the pandemic.
The team is working on developing a Question Bank Module. Students will have to log in and then access a set of unique question papers which will be decrypted upon log-in authorisation.
Future plans include making the system totally automated and machine-run so that there is no risk of any element of human influence, interference or manipulation. This should promote transparency and reassure stakeholders of fairness.
There are plans to develop an on-camera proctoring system wherein images and voice recordings will be incorporated for other participants and the need for external software programmes will be removed.
There is potential to introduce the proctored examinations concept for other testing and evaluation settings, including but not limited to the Vocational evaluations under the Utkarsh Bangla programme.
The Council can look into charging a fee from other councils and boards that might wish to use the service to conduct exams and evaluations in a similar format.
The introduction of proctored exams as well as the adjustments made to the system upon reflection and feedback promise great potential for coming years. Even if the pandemic becomes a thing of the past, moving into the digital realm can only spell good things and heightened preparedness.
For more information, please contact:
Anoop Kumar Agrawal at email@example.com
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