I have articulated in my last article in favor of a blended model of delivery of education (mixing and matching of online and offline) post Covid- 19. I have also recently participated in few webinars in this issue and apprised that students are craving to go back to physical classroom for several reasons like online is not as engaging between a teacher and students as in physical class room; and missing out socialization, fun, game and sports, cafeteria etc. Socialization in the form of human-human interaction, sharing of thoughts, friendship and even animosity, love and rejections, high and low of minds etc. are prerequisites for the proper development and maturation of life as a species. Beside this, online delivery of teaching from preprimary to say up to 7th std. is practically not tenable, because maturity of the kids at this period will not be amenable to handle online classes. Finally, everyday spending say (5-7) hours at a stretch in front of electronic screen is appearing strenuous to all students from school to college/university level. It is severely affecting young generation’s physical wellness.
Delivery of education does not end at the level of teaching-learning process, subsequent evaluation and grading of the students’ performance is part and parcel of it. So now the question appears how feasible is to conduct online examination and grade them? Couple of key issue here are how to perfectly implement the impersonation of candidates and implementation of surveillance mechanism in checkmating the malpractices adopted by the students’? There are few instances where attempts have been made to find solutions (1), including recent application of face recognition tools by AI, called proctoring (2, 3). But the testing of these tools, collation of diverse user experiences and realization in reality may take time.
One key point to be kept in mind that the crux of these issues like online teaching and evaluation have precipitated recently due to the devastating effect of global pandemic Covid-19. Maintaining of social distance of 2 meters is recommended as a key and consensus parameter in order to prevent its spread. And this is also mandatory even in a physical classroom for the resumption of educational operation. But most of the educational institutions are not well- equipped all on a sudden in implementing these edtech methods like online classes and evaluation to maintain the continuity of the operation. And primary inhibition, keeping aside issues like quality of teaching, students’ engagement etc., appearing to adopt with online activities is the accessibility and affordability of high speed internet and data to the mass of the students. No, it does not end there. In my own interaction with the students at my present assignment, I am surprised to hear that some of the students, probably hailing from economically weaker section of the population, even have difficulty charging the mobile phone when they travel to rural area. It indicates that even before internet and data, access to electricity can be a big hurdle in universalizing edtech procedures. In a recently conducted survey by University of Hyderabad, India, with a participation of 2,500 students have shown that only 37% of the students have been successfully abled to participate in online classes. This have been alike experience of teachers in Indian top notched technology teaching and research Institutions like IITs and Central Universities (4). If the circumstances in India, being one of the emerging economy of the world, appears like this; someone can easily gaze the implication of online classes in the lesser developed countries.
My interactions in both personal and professional front have indicated that online teachings, though facing many challenges, yet has appeared as a mainstay of delivery in Covid time with some compromises. Sometime recoded lecture or the content through e. mail or Whatsapp is being delivered if the speed of the internet or data availability becomes poor. But implementation of online exam to evaluate students in proper scale has not been accepted whole heartedly by educationist as of to date and therefore remain as a bigger hurdle than online teachings. Therefore, some institutions are opting for promotion without examination, and some are still withholding. So what is the way forward to conduct physical examination maintaining social distance is still a bewilderment.
I am not an engineer or IT professional and therefore not able to think what will be the course of future development of technology to accept online exam consensually. However, considering the main hindrance of maintaining social distancing of physical examination process, I would like to suggest to shift the site of the examination from a small size class room to a colossus as well as confined place like sports stadium in urban area or similar kind of make shift arrangement in an open playground field in semi urban and rural area. Considering average size of an football stadium is 8000 square meter and required area of social distancing 4 square meter, it can accommodate 2000 students at one go to write the exam physically. With some slight modification, the gallery of the stadium can also be used and if that can accommodate say another 2000, it totally amounts to 4000 students. If the process can be repeated in two shifts/day, in between arranging all sorts of preventives like fumigation etc., finally the tally will be 8000 students/day. CCTV surveillance or any other high tech procedures, if possible, can be overlaid in this site to strengthen the scrutiny and sanctity of an examination process. This kind of temporary arrangement of converting say hotel or resort to quarantine center, or building of makeshift healthcare facility under a canopy is being adopted in populous countries in tackling the containment and treatment of Covid. Then a pertinent question can be raised, why not for examination?
1) Jung, I.Y. Enhanced Security for Online Exams Using Group Cryptography, IEEE, 2009, 52.
3) Anna S Milone, Angela M Cortese, Rebecca L Balestrieri, Amy L Pittenger. The Impact of Proctored Online Exams on the Educational Experience, 2017, 9(1):108-114.
4) Anurag Mehra. After Weeks of Online Classes at IIT, Here’s The Truth, https://www.ndtv.com/opinion/online-classes-sound-cute-on-paper-heres-the-reality-2237464.
Author’s view in this article is personal.