The University of Mumbai’s plan to start digital assessment of answer sheets is yet to take off, as the varsity has still not got any takers for the project. Aiming to find an online agency to conduct on-screen assessment in this semester itself, MU has floated a tender for the third time with relaxed norms.
Even as the university hopes to find bidders for this project soon, teachers have already started assessing answer sheets the old way using pen and paper.
“We have relaxed some norms to attract more agencies for this project and the process will be open till April 21. We hope to introduce the digital assessment method in this semester itself,” said M A Khan, registrar, MU.
The first of these tenders was floated in the last week of February, followed by a second tender in mid-March, since the first tender could not attract many bidders. The process for inviting bidders for the third time started on Thursday.
In a meeting held in January this year, MU vice-chancellor Sanjay Deshmukh announced his decision to take assessment of answer booklets onto a digital platform in an attempt to reduce cheating and tampering of answer sheets.
While the process currently applies only for the engineering faculty, Deshmukh said it will be extended to all exams by April. He added that each of the 19.50 lakh answer sheets will be scanned and assessed online by teachers at the new examination house in MU’s Kalina campus.
But almost three months later, the examination house is still not ready, no training workshops have been held for teachers, and with no online agency bidding for the process, teachers are assessing papers with pen and paper.
“Until we replace pen and paper with on-screen assessment, teachers will have to use the old method. Our aim is to implement digital assessment at the earliest,” added Khan.
Colleges, however, see no point in implementing on-screen assessment in such a hurry. With repeater exams for many courses already over and students of TYBCom already appearing for their final semester exams, principals feel it’s too late to introduce new assessment methods.
“Instead, the varsity should focus on announcing results within 45 days this time. Assessment in the old format is working fine as of now,” said the principal of a city college on condition of anonymity.
WHAT MOTIVATED THE MOVE?
A tip-off to the Bhandup police unearthed one of the biggest scams that hit the University of Mumbai.
Eight employees from the examination department of MU were arrested for allegedly running an engineering answer sheet scam, which gave students a chance to tamper with their answer sheets a day or two after the exams were over
At present, once a student appears for an examination, the answer sheet stays in transit or lies at the examination house for two-three days
In case of engineering students, the answer sheets get scanned after three days and the digital version is finally assessed by the examiner
According the police, those arrested in this case made use of these three days to steal answer sheets of select students, handed over the sheets to the students to fill in the vacant space they left in their sheets at the time of the examination, and put back these filled answer sheets in the original stack for assessment.
About the digital system
On-screen assessment involves scanning all pages of the answer booklet, and uploading them on a network which can be accessed by examiners and moderators with the help of personalised login IDs and passwords
Once the examiner accesses the answer booklet, he or she can assess the paper on a computer screen and award marks to every answer on the given template.
The purpose of scanning these answer booklets is to avoid tampering of answer sheets after they’ve been submitted by students.
‘Scan, but with precaution’
In 2012, a series of engineering paper leaks had rocked the University of Mumbai and a fact finding committee was put together to find out the loopholes in the system in place
A host of suggestions were given by the committee, one of which asked the university to cut down the number of days it takes to scan answer booklets before it is sent for assessment.
The committee had said this gap of days can easily lead to mischief with the answer booklets, which is exactly what happened in May 2016.
Members of the Bombay University and College Teachers’ Union (BUCTU) had resent a copy of the report submitted by the 2012 fact finding committee for the perusal of MU, but to no avail.