As Delhi University readies to reopen, students await clarity on mode of exam
Even as Delhi University (DU) colleges and departments prepare to reopen for final-year undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) students from September 15 for practical classes, lab work, and academic consultation, students and teachers are awaiting clarity over their mode of examinations that begin in November.
According to university’s academic calendar, the final-year UG students will appear for their fifth semester exams from November 30 and theory exams for final-year PG students will begin on December 15.
Dean (exams) DS Rawat explained that both the online open book exams (OBE) and regular exams were on the table and that it was too early to comment on it. “As part of the phased reopening, we have only allowed students to return for practical classes and not theory lessons for now. The decision between the two modes of exam (OBE or in-person exams) will be taken later based on the situation of the pandemic and other factors like how classes will be conducted,” he said.
DU registrar Vikas Gupta, however, noted that the current Delhi Disaster Management Authority guidelines, which allow for 50% seating capacity in classrooms, will make it difficult to hold in-person examinations. “If the DDMA guidelines are relaxed by then, we can think of holding in-person exams. Else, we are most likely to continue with online OBE,” he said.
Teachers across the university also said there is a need to focus on the final-year students and prepare them for in-person examination, pointing out that they had to deal with multiple modes of learning and assessments.
Speaking of undergraduate students, Abha Dev Habib, who teaches Physics at Miranda House, said, “The final-year UG students are a peculiar batch because they had one physical exam in the first semester before the pandemic, followed by promotion on the basis of previous exams in their second semester. While they appeared for online OBE in the third semester, these students were again promoted on the basis of internals in the fourth semester due to the second wave. This means that theirs will be a diluted degree as their exams were not proctored. Teachers will have to focus on preparing these students for their in-person exams moving forward.”
Some students too expressed hope of returning to physical exams.
Ayush Vikram Singh, a postgraduate student of Political Science in DU, said that learning had taken a hit for their batch and would hurt their academic prospects in the future.
“We want at least one exam to be conducted in the offline mode so that things show some semblance of normalcy at least in the second year of our degree. Our classes started in January and we appeared for our first semester exams in OBE mode. We were promoted on the basis of our internal assessments in the second semester. This is a worrying situation because we don’t know how these degrees will be perceived in the future. Though we are glad that the university conducted some form of examination, classroom learning was hit heavily and students wanting to pursue PhD like me will be affected because we only learned on the basis of reading lists,” he said.
However, not all students are looking forward to a full return to such a mode.
Ali Fraz Rizvi, a third-year UG student of Social Work at Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar College, said he preferred the open-book exam in offline mode, which meant submitting hardcopies of his answer sheets to teachers in college premises.
“Due to online classes, we haven’t even received most of our readings. The learning has not happened on a level that would allow us to have physical exams. I would prefer that the university conduct OBE in offline mode because we had faced issues in submitting answer scripts digitally during the last semester as well,” he said.
In August last year, the university conducted its first online OBE in the wake of the pandemic. Students had reported several glitches in the system while appearing for their papers which were resolved when the exams were held in the same mode in December.
Rizvi is also worried that, unlike Science students, he won’t be able to return to the campus anytime soon. “Field work is extremely important in my courses and it determines my higher education and work prospects. We could not do any field work in the past two years and are now waiting to see if the college will grant us permission to do so,” he said.