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Distance Learning is being perceived as a viable alternative nowadays when colleges have been forced to close their campuses and online classroom study has become an option. However, there is a severe lack of infrastructure, information and understanding of distance learning courses.
The students on one hand do not have a complete picture of how Distance Education works and the educational institutions are also figuring out various important aspects about delivering courses via distance mode.
Distance Learning / Correspondence is the mode of study in which a student is not required to visit their college or institute. Students attend classes online or study via materials delivered to their homes via post. However, one area in which courses delivered via distance mode are problematic is the conduct of exams.
In this article, we take a look at the detailed examination process of distance learning courses in India. Students can go through the various methods used by distance education universities to conduct examinations and develop an understanding of the examination process for distance learning courses in India.
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Student Evaluation in Distance Learning Courses
The evaluation of a student's performance in distance learning courses is mostly based on the following three parameters.
- Assignments: Students are given assignments as part of the course, which they have to submit within a specified deadline.
- Tests: Universities mostly conduct online tests for distance learning courses. These tests are conducted at regular intervals throughout the course and are usually MCQ-based.
- Examinations: Examinations in distance learning courses have been explored in detail further on in this article.
Distance learning universities may also consider the following when assessing students enrolled in a distance learning course.
- Forum Discussions: Forums are a part of almost every distance learning or online course. Students are assessed on their participation in these forums.
- Portfolio: Portfolio is a student-managed collection of points he/she learned during a distance learning course. Examiners or mentors of distance learning courses may check student portfolios at regular intervals.
Evaluation based on Forum Discussions and Portfolio is rarely seen in distance learning universities. Mostly, the former three parameters are the only ones considered by universities. Now, let's take a look at the examinations in distance learning courses.
Examinations in Distance Learning Courses
Just as is the case with any other course, conducting exams is an essential step in distance education. Universities and colleges assess candidates based on their performance in examinations. Distance learning universities also have to conduct examinations for their degree courses. No student can be granted a degree without appearing for an examination conducted by their college or university.
How Distance Learning Universities Conduct Examinations
In the past, distance learning universities had two ways to conduct examinations -- through the online mode or regional centres. Online exams were conducted for degree courses by many of the top distance learning universities in India such as the Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning (SCDL).
However, in 2017, the University Grants Commission (UGC) declared that online exams conducted for distance learning degree courses were invalid. Therefore, universities were left with only the other option i.e. conducting exams through regional test centres.
Distance Learning Exams Through Regional Test Centres
This is the most common way of conducting examinations for distance learning courses in universities in India and the world. The following points contain the details of distance learning examination process through regional test centres.
Distance learning universities usually have regional test centres at various locations.
Some universities such as Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) may have a high number of centres functional in almost every corner of the country. While the number of test centres for other smaller universities may be significantly fewer.
Students have to select the regional test centre for their course at the time of registration.
Students are required to physically visit these regional test centres of distance learning universities to appear for the examinations.
The duration of distance learning courses is often flexible. For eg. degree courses in IGNOU can be 3 - 6 years long. In such cases, students have the choice to register for or skip the examinations.
This way of conducting the examinations proves to be the most convenient for the universities as well as the students. While the universities do not have to invest in expensive infrastructures and can rely on their associations with existing institutions, students can simply visit their nearest centre to take exams.
New Examination Process for Distance Learning Courses
However, keeping student safety in mind due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, universities are refraining from conducting the examinations through the regional test centre process. UGC constituted a committee of experts who were tasked with suggesting new models for conducting examinations amidst the ongoing crisis. The committee suggested three new models for conducting examinations. Given below are the details of these three models.
Model 1: Written Subjective-Type Examinations
- The examinations will be conducted using Google Classroom and Google Meet.
Classroom and Meet are two software's that are widely being used to shift ongoing courses to online mode.
Teacher uploads the questions on Google Classrooms.
Student joins Google Meet with camera and audio and accesses the question paper.
The student writes the answers on a plain sheet of paper and uploads the same before the stipulated deadline.
UGC has suggested keeping a maximum time limit of 1.5 hours and a maximum batch size of 30 students for this model.
The answer scripts can then be manually evaluated by the teachers.
Model 2: Online Proctored MCQ-Type Examination
The student has to download and register on a software specified by their university.
The online registration and attendance of a student are manually verified by a proctor.
The student is monitored through audio and video equipment by manual proctoring. AI is also being used to proctor these examinations.
The examination will have multiple-choice questions.
Model 3: Case Study and Project-Based
The student is given a case study or project-based problem with a 2 hour before a deadline.
The student will have to submit a hand-written solution to the problem before the deadline.
The solution can also contain an online presentation or viva apart from the handwritten solution.
HRD ministry has allowed top 100 universities to conduct online degree courses under the PM eVidya scheme. In such a scenario, it becomes very important to decide upon a good way to conduct distance learning exams that adhere to social distancing norms and do not compromise with the safety of the students. All of the three suggested models currently seem viable options for conducting examinations for distance learning courses.
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