After NMIMS row, colleges in Mumbai bring changes to online exam process

Published on Jan 21, 2021 02:07 AM IST

After four proctors who allegedly harassed female students were fired by the online exam-conducting firm of a city-based management institute, several colleges have decided to include in-house teachers for online exams along with other proctors. In some cases, proctoring will only be done by college teachers along with software proctoring, said college principals.

Last week, students of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) took to Twitter to share screenshots of messages sent by four proctors to some female students. (HT FILE)
Last week, students of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) took to Twitter to share screenshots of messages sent by four proctors to some female students. (HT FILE)
By, Mumbai

After four proctors who allegedly harassed female students were fired by the online exam-conducting firm of a city-based management institute, several colleges have decided to include in-house teachers for online exams along with other proctors. In some cases, proctoring will only be done by college teachers along with software proctoring, said college principals.

Last week, students of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) took to Twitter to share screenshots of messages sent by four proctors to some female students. The proctors were working with Mercer Mettl, a company that conducts online examinations, which had been hired by NMIMS. The four were fired by Mercer Mettl after it received the reports of harassment. NMIMS has formed a fact-finding committee to investigate the students’ allegations and updates on the investigation are awaited.

“Our college exams have been conducted very smoothly with the help of our technology partner without any complaints from students or teachers. But after the recent incident at the management institute, our teachers came together to brainstorm on how to avoid recurrence of such an instance in the future, and decided to include teachers for proctoring all exams along with external proctors,” said Marie Fernandes, principal of St Andrew’s College, Bandra. She said that this change will apply for all online exams henceforth.

The principal of a college in south Mumbai on condition of anonymity said that it was exploring the option of not hiring external exam vendors like Mercer Mettl.

“Since our teachers are already getting used to conducting classes as well as exams online, we are working towards making the upcoming exam an in-house exam and not extend the contract of the exam vendor,” said the principal, adding that the NMIMS incident had also left students worried.

“There’s still no clarity on whether the next semester exams in May will be held online, but in case it continues online, we plan to conduct the exams on our own,” the principal said.

This academic year, owing to Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, all university exams were held online. University of Mumbai (MU) chose to decentralise the examination system by giving individual colleges the power to conduct exams. Clusters of eight to ten colleges were formed with one cluster head authorised to oversee the process.

Many MU-affiliated colleges chose to hold exams on their own through using software like Google Forms or MS Teams while some hired technology firms to conduct exams for them.

“Instead of expecting colleges to find and hire their own service providers, the university should have streamlined this process and saved many institutes from such trouble. Instead, by decentralising the online examination, they managed to wash their hands off the process altogether,” said Sudhakar Tamboli, a member of the Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS) and the MU senate.

Last October, MU’s distance education wing, Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL), had to postpone third-year exams for Bachelors of commerce (BCom) and arts (BA) after more than 90% of its registered students were unable to access the exam link.

MU initially said there were “technical glitches” and later cancelled its contract with LittleMORE Innovation Labs, which was responsible for conducting the exams.

Tenders were then invited for a new service provider to hold the exams at a later date. IDOL exams were eventually held in the last week of October 2020, after a Pune-based tech firm was hired by MU to conduct the exams.

“Till date, there’s no clarity on the action that the university took against LittleMORE Innovation labs. That decision left at least 9,000 IDOL students under a lot of anxiety for two days before the exams were postponed. There is need for stricter policies by the varsity to avoid technology firms getting away with creating trouble for students,” said Tamboli.

At Bandra’s RD National College, there was “man-to-man mapping” for all exams by the management despite the service provider ensuring proctoring through technology.

“We ensured that one teacher proctors every 20-25 students for exams and along with that, our service provider helped us [conduct] mock tests and demo exams before the final papers began for the previous semester, boosting students’ confidence. We have also made it very clear that students are to share no personal data online,” said Neha Jagtiani, the in-charge principal of the college.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Shreya Bhandary is a Special Correspondent covering higher education for Hindustan Times, Mumbai. Her work revolves around finding loopholes in the current education system and highlighting the good and the bad in higher education institutes in and around Mumbai.

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