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Introduction 

The open house held on the 24th of last month was much needed, and the opportunity was strongly welcomed by the student community as a whole. Even ignoring the poor timing of the session, scheduled an hour and a half before a power cut, the session did little to alleviate the biggest concerns of students, such as the tight schedule for students sitting for placements and the possibility of a dead week. While we did get some clarity regarding the rest of the semester, the intention behind the session seemed to be to placate the students with diplomatic answers rather than solve problems. 

The Director declared the launch date of Bandhu, the self-help website funded by the batch of ‘92 to help students with their emotional well-being. There wasn’t really much engagement from the SWC except for their comment, “To monitor your mental health, look at the productivity that you expect from yourself” which seemed very vague and wasn’t received well by the students.

We identified outstanding issues after the session and present them once again, in the hope that it leads to some change. 

A Need For Fair Examinations:

Everyone expected an increase in instances of cheating this sem, and to the institute’s credit, they did set up a fairly elaborate method to remotely proctored exams. However, as is obvious to most people, cheating is still widely prevalent. While it is unrealistic to expect an effective, complete ban on cheating, it should be easy to reduce it. 

The most obvious way is for all professors to adhere to the guidelines for proctoring exams that were painstakingly set up by the institute. With a little effort on their end, professors can easily implement full-view proctoring, ensuring at least, that students do not use their laptops to directly look up answers.

We find it difficult to believe that professors are unaware of the rampant cheating that occurs in their respective courses, especially when there is no/flimsy proctoring in most.

The institute seems to expect students to come forward when they know of academic malpractice occurring in a course. While it may sound like a great idea from the institute’s perspective, it is very rare that a student will snitch on their peers, even if their anonymity is ensured, and names of perpetrators are not asked for. Even if we ignore that, the students engaged in cheating are not going to come forward, and the ones who aren’t, don’t know how it is being done, so coming forward is useless. 

Professors are enabling widespread cheating by not following institute guidelines, and diligent students are facing the repercussions.

Evaluation:

One of the major concerns of students in the online semester has been that a huge weightage (up to 80%) has been given to the end semester exams in many courses. Initially, the administration was planning in-person proctored endsems which would have ensured conduction of examinations in a fair manner. But their expectations were too optimistic and now, having remotely proctored endsems is the only way out. The huge weightage of endsems has created a make or break situation for the students as their SPI (and CPI) is highly dependent on them. In addition to that, remotely proctored exams have not been very successful at curbing academic malpractices, raising a big question about maintaining integrity during the endsems. One solution which has been discussed is to enforce the strictest proctoring method. But, it is possible that students may identify loopholes in that system too. Thus, the professors should proactively set the question paper and conduct the examination in such a manner that cheating would take a lot of effort or won’t make any sense. For e.g., instead of having direct formula-based or memory/fact-based questions we can have exams where we would be required to apply the concepts learnt. We all know that formulas and facts are easily accessible from notes or slides and even if the exam is proctored, students can carry a cheatsheet unnoticed and gain an advantage over honest students. Another method is to have multiple sets of question papers so that it becomes very difficult and time-consuming for a student to directly copy answers or discuss them with his/her peers. We could also have exams with shorter duration without reducing the number of questions initially planned so that the students won’t get time to cheat and focus on solving the questions quickly.

Instead of continuing evaluation like a traditional offline semester, the professors could have adopted some alternate methods for evaluation instead of a high-stakes end-semester examination. We could have had a long project with a substantial weightage where multiple concepts learnt in the course could be applied. The projects can be open-ended, thus discouraging malpractices, and plagiarism can be easily detected. To ensure continuous evaluation, checkpoints can be introduced so students work on this project diligently and not just procrastinate. This would ensure that students go through the concepts and that academic integrity is maintained for a major part of the course. Some professors have adopted this method, but the remaining could have also followed this path to make the evaluation fairer.

We Need a Dead Week:

A popular demand by the students was to have a dead week before the end-semester examinations. If implemented, this would imply no assignment submissions or quizzes a week before the endsems. This would save students hours of precious time which could be better devoted to studying for the dreaded examination.

The authorities made it clear that such a dead week cannot be imposed. Having realised that the Day 1 for placements was taking place on the 1st of December, end-semester exams have to be conducted in a shorter time frame to allow for pre-processes that are involved during placements. Adding to this the fact that the semester is shorter than usual, it may be difficult for professors to complete the number of quizzes/assignments that were promised at the beginning of the semester. This has made it difficult to have a dead week.

We believe that the dead week should be imposed in spite of this difficulty. A similar dead week was requested by the Dean before mid-semester examinations as well, but this wasn’t made compulsory and thus professors did not pay much heed to it. We require a strict no quizzes and assignments policy a week before the end-semester exams. There are some reasons behind this demand that must be understood:

  1. This semester has been riddled with countless assignments and quizzes. It has been impossible to find time to devote any time to self-studies in the midst of our excessive academic burden. A dead week would ensure that in spite of this burden throughout the sem, we still get a chance to give our 100% during the endsems.

  2. IIT Delhi, Kanpur and Madras all have postponed the endsemester examinations to mid December or beyond, while IIT Kharagpur has done away with endsem exams altogether. Postponing exams seems to be a prudent option, as it affords final year students enough time to properly manage both academics and placements. It also alleviates the burden on the PT Cell, considering that the placement managers (who are final year students themselves) will be in the thick of things in this period. In case this solution seems unlikely, a dead week can alternatively be an excellent way of providing students with some time to prepare adequately for exams as well as placements.

  3. Some students have been unable to attend virtual lectures regularly. It may be due to poor connectivity, inability to find a peaceful place at home or lack of engagement in online lectures. Consequently, these students have not been able to keep up with all the work covered in class.  A dead week would allow them to get back in touch with academics and perform better in the endsems.

  4. It is important to note that the endsems are being held in a span of just one week, which means there will be no gap between papers. Students may even have more than one paper in a day, making the period extremely stressful. A dead week will help dissipate some of this stress by allowing students to better prepare for papers which do not have sufficient breaks in between them.

  5. Given that many courses have assigned a large weightage to the end semesters (ranging for 50-80% of total marks), this may be one of the most important exams we appear for in our institute lives. The dead week allows us to be well prepared for such a crucial time.

We suggest some solutions that can make this possible. It is simply a matter of making up for the missed quizzes:

  1. Professors could adjust the weightage of the previous quizzes.
  2. The weightage for the endsems could be adjusted.
  3. The total marks (endsems+ midsems + assignments + quizzes) could be scaled up to add up to 100.

Assignments can be dealt with in a similar fashion.

Given the importance of having such a dead week, we sincerely request the enforcement of a strict no assignment and no quiz policy.

Conclusion:

We have tried to present the outstanding issues remaining after the open house, and analyse them to the best of our abilities. We request the administration and the faculty go through them and take some action to solve the problems efficiently and quickly. We sincerely hope that the students won’t have to face more such problems in the next semester in case it is held online as well.

 

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Chief Editors: Amogh Gawaskar and Suman Mondal

Mail to: insight@iitb.ac.in