The entire country got together in an unprecedented spirit of unity responding to Prime Minister Modi’s Janata Curfew and ‘9pm-9mins’ appeals as India fought and fights COVID-19. Almost all sections of society have been deeply involved with ensuring a speedy normalcy and health recovery. One unifying denominator that has made certain things possible is the power of the internet. Various online tools have provided critical services ranging from a robust work-from-home ecosystem, COVID relief activities, retail and financial services, education to infotainment, virtual games, fun, etc.
The Indian response has been phenomenal and very pronounced in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) as well. While memes and jokes were going around that Indian homemakers would find cure for the coronavirus in response to their inability to deal with kids at home, a series of efforts by the MHRD took the education ecosystem into a digital world of immersive learning.
Regulatory bodies like UGC, AICTE and CBSE have been encouraging and supporting the use of online platforms like SWAYAM, SWAYAM-PRABHA, NEAT, National Digital Library, IDEATHON, DIKSHA, NROER, etc, throwing open to all the knowledge treasure house of India. Besides, various free online tools like TCS iON GlassRoom and Google Classroom brought the blackboard experience into a motherboard device. Even schools embraced this opportunity to shift the K-to-12 classroom into the cocoonic comfort zones of homes. The strong undercurrent under every institution’s digital foundation is a minimally viable product to engage with students, the key stakeholders in this entire online exercise.
The student’s precious cognitive bandwidth has to align with the digitally powered online bandwidth in this nationwide academic experiment. The career pathway-treading graduating batch, stuck in the middle pre-final year and sophomores, and the raw freshers—all have to sail synchronously in this online journey. The current active lockdown and the preceding rehearsal period have broadly shaped the operational contours of online education in India and by the time this article is published most of the institutions would wait in anticipation of the lockdown exit strategy. While they wait, institutions need to also plan their own strategy for assessment.
The immediate question for an exit strategy is—to test or not to test? This is not the Covid Test but whether online assessments can be rolled out. The feedback has been mixed as some feel the quality of engagement online doesn’t meet assessment standards while some feel it does to a certain extent. It’s not only the evaluation tests for regular courses but also the online tests for competitive exams like JEE, JEE-Advanced NEET and the online entrance tests of various private universities are being disrupted by Covid.
From teaching online, the pressure is now shifting to assessments. Universities are waging an academic battle against time due to shrinking academic calendar. The higher secondary exams for various boards are also in a state of suspended animation. Many universities and higher educational institutions are yet to conduct their entrance tests for admissions. At this crucial Covidian times lie two valid questions waiting for an answer—to test or not to test, online test for college students and multiple entrance tests for high school students seeking admissions? Only time will tell.
firstname.lastname@example.org Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA Deemed University