In June, Delhi University announced open book online exams for its final semester students. As the move was opposed by students and teachers alike, human resource development minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, on June 24, asked the University Grants Commission to revisit its guidelines for online exams. The UGC recommended scrapping online exams for final year students, but the Delhi University stuck to its decision, albeit after postponing the exams by 10 days.
On Monday, the UGC went back on its recommendation. It issued new guidelines stating that final year exams must be compulsorily held by the end of September. In a new notification, Delhi University announced a further postponement of exams.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Delhi University started holding mock tests to see what problems the students might face in taking online exams. It did not go according to plan. Many students complained of glitches in the registration process, some received wrong question papers, others had a hard time uploading answer sheets. Many students with disabilities said they weren’t given sufficient time.
The mock exams were run from July 4-8.
Mehreen, a student of BSc at Gargi College, complained that the website was sluggish during her chemistry mock exam. “The website crashed whenever we tried to open it. The university’s servers cannot take a lot of traffic. There was no option for searching our question paper. In a span of two hours, we had to scan thorough at least 60 question papers,” she said.
Nasir Saifi of Kirori Mal College had a similar tale. “The server wasn’t responding but even when someone got access to the portal somehow, they found question papers for different courses than theirs.”
Some students were disappointed that their teachers seemed apathetic to their problems. Ann Afreen, a student of sociology at the Janki Devi Memorial College, said, “As everyone was registering for the mock test, I did the same. But the thing was it showed that they had sent OTP to my mail ID and my number. That mail id they showed missed the last letter. For example, instead of *****@gmail.com, it was ****@gmail.co. I don’t recall putting in my email id while filling in my details for the admit card. Nevertheless, I waited for OTP to be sent to my phone. But I didn’t get anything.”
When Afreen contacted her teachers regarding this, their response was not satisfying, she said. “I called my college admin staff and told them what was happening, they said they couldn’t help me, only the main university could do something. That I should write an email to them. But I was not satisfied with what they said so I called in my department HOD, she said the same and told me to wait for the main university to reply.”
Jyotsana, a final year student of economics at the Indraprastha College for Women, shared a list of problems her whole class faced and informed their teachers about. The problems: the website kept crashing, they were given wrong question papers, there was no provision for blind or physically disabled people. They also pointed out that the mock text exercise had left many students depressed and some had even expressed suicidal intentions.
The email sent to teachers of the economics department, Indraprastha College for Women.
On Saturday night, walls and name boards of many colleges were seen painted with words such as “ DU against OBE”, “Scrap OBE” or “NO OBE” – a protest against the mess that were the mock exams.
Asked if her experience of the mock exam could affect her performance in the final exam, Afreen replied, “It will definitely affect my performance. It is affecting my mental health. While giving exams, you are solely focused on how you will write it, what will be the main pointers. But, now, more than that, I am worried about how it will be conducted. Will I be able to log in, will I get access?”
She added, “It is the responsibility of the university to make sure the students are comfortable with this new system before conducting the finals.”