There was a time when all sorts of examinations used to be conducted in the pen and paper (offline as we call it now) format only. Students need to be extra careful while marking the OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) sheets while answering as any small error can lead to losing marks. This made taking exams a headache as there were many disadvantages to this method as students may miss out on some questions as it may not be easy to find unmarked answers in the sheet. Also, there was a huge problem of students marking the sheet in the wrong order or marking the answer of one question in the space for another. All these problems led to the authorities deciding to make an online format and/or a computer-based format for entrance exams. Nowadays, most of the private and government exams are sure to have an online format for taking the exam. State entrance examinations such as UPTU of the Uttar Pradesh Technical University is an example of this.
The Effect of COVID-19 on Exams
The novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest ever challenge faced by the planet since World War Two. Since its’ emergence in Wuhan (China), the virus has spread to almost every nook and corner of the world. It has affected all sorts of businesses, industries, and every other field. The case of education and examinations is no different. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University, Lucknow had to indefinitely postpone the UPTU exam due to the ongoing lockdown on account of COVID-19. The exam was originally scheduled to be conducted on May 10 but now does not have a certain date. With around 25000 more applications arriving this year, now the future of those students is uncertain. The same has been the case for all the examinations which were scheduled during the months of March to June. With the cases of the disease rising, the educational field along with every other field be it industry, sports or anything else is staring into absolute darkness.
In India, Maharashtra is the most affected state in the case of reported cases and rising deaths. The educational sector of the state is completely shut down with exams such as the MAH CET postponed. Though the official website says it will be rescheduled to April 30, 2020, there is almost no chance to resume the exams on the said date in the current scenario.
How Online Mode Has Become the Saviour?
During the old times, when tough situations such as these occur, most of the exams need to be cancelled and conducted again at a later date or not conducted at all. This is because there is a lot of trouble in conducting a pen and paper exam.
The highest risk is always the safekeeping of the physical copies of the question paper. At a time when even keeping those without getting leaked is a herculean task, to again guard them to a later uncertain date is almost impossible and very expensive. The time and resources required to conduct a pen and paper exam are also really high compared to an online mode exam. It requires a lot of arrangements and numerous staff to work as invigilators in each exam room.
In such situations, the online and/or computer-based exams are easy to conduct. Since the question paper is stored in a highly secure server, there is no chance of those getting leaked. The computer algorithms can also be programmed to randomize questions among students so that no two students sitting together gets the same questions or at least not the same order of questions. The arrangements required are very less for computer-based exams as all the important tasks are done by the computer itself and there is no need for huge paperwork, signature here-signature there mess as in the case of offline mode. The time and resources required are nominal in case of online exams.
Due to all these factors, it was also very easy for the authorities and/or the exam governing bodies to reschedule the exams during the scenario of lockdown because of the novel coronavirus induced pandemic which we are facing now. The losses incurred due to change in exam dates is far less compared to the rescheduling of an offline pen and paper-based exam. The MAH CET is a very good example of this case. With the state being the most affected by the disease in the country, it would have suffered additional burdens of expenses in re-conducting exams. But since the HSSLIVE exams were computer-based, it was easy to postpone without the fear of large expenses.
Therefore, we can say that, though the online mode of exams is still not polished enough, at least in our country, it is definitely the way towards the future. The counts of technical glitches happening are becoming lower and lower in each passing year as the solutions provided by our own IT industries grow stronger and stronger.