Published: 04th May 2020
#UPESDOESNTCARE: Law students accuse UPES of forcing online test. VC assures smooth, student-friendly exam
The students said that they are not averse to the idea of an online exam, it's the mode in which it is being conducted and in the way, it was notified that they feel is absolutely arbitrary and unjust
The hashtag #UPESDOESNTCARE has been trending on Twitter for the past couple of days as the graduating final year students of the School of Law, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun alleged that their final exams are being conducted online on a complex third party platform that will make it difficult for students with bad connectivity to finish the exam uninterrupted.
The Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sunil Rai, assured us that the software being used is lighter than the general video calling softwares that we use and that a standing committee will address any difficulty a student encounters during an exam. He also added that the 900+ students, from various other courses, who sat for the exams on the first day, have not faced a huge problem and the few of them who had difficulty were helped by the college on a case to case basis. A total of 2354 final year students have decided to appear for the May cycle out of which 2316 students have successfully appeared for their exams in the last three days.
While most universities have taken a considerate assessment of students keeping in mind matters of equality in access to digital infrastructure but UPES has not, complained the students. "Our online exams begin on May 5, 2020, and we are beyond mentally drained and completely hopeless. Many universities have postponed exams owing to the global crisis that we are in right now however we don't understand what seems to be the urgency at our college. The complete disregard for students belonging to different social classes and economic backgrounds is saddening," said a final-year student under the condition of anonymity.
In response, Dr Rai said that it was in the best interest of the students and explained why they decided to conduct the exams now, "The students will go for placement once the lockdown is over and we do not want to hold them back. A lot of the IIMs and other management institutes had already finished conducting their exams. We did not want our students to fall behind."
The students said that they are not averse to the idea of an online exam, it's the mode in which it is being conducted and in the way it was notified that they feel is absolutely arbitrary and unjust. "The MSB software requires us to have a seamless internet connection, functioning webcam and microphones. Not all students have access to high-speed internet and are relying on mobile hotspots. Not all of us have brand-new updated laptops with all these requirements," said another student.
The VC, however, said that a technical team has checked the data and bandwidth requirement for the app and it needs even less data than any regular video conference software. "If there are any difficulties during the exam and the internet connection is severed, the student will be able to log in again and the time they lose will be awarded as a grace. If there is a major issue, such as a power cut, they will be allowed to sit for the second time after they come back on campus. But that too will be an online exam to keep things balanced," he said. "We are bound to use a software that allows proctoring because otherwise some of the companies these students will apply for or wants to apply for will not accept the result," he added.
The college also confirmed that the Mettl Secure Browser requires internet speed of 512 KBPS only, which is easily available on all mobile networks and mobile hotspots. All possible support has been extended by IT, academics, and the administrative teams, said a statement from the institute.
The students said that the institute never included students in the decision-making process or conducted a survey to make sure whether everybody is equipped for an online exam on such a complex platform. "The decision is completely authoritarian. We were given an option to either write this exam in the first attempt or opt for a “second attempt” for these exams on the same platform within the college campus whenever the lockdown lifts. As graduating law students in their final semester, most of us were in the middle of assessment law firm internships for jobs, working at law firms on probation and are expected to resume immediately if we want to keep these jobs which we do. This is why the second attempt option is not feasible for graduating students. In case we fail in this exam due to unavoidable circumstances we would have to appear for supplementary exams.
The date for the second attempt remains uncertain and unknown, yet some students had to choose this option because they simply don't have access to the internet or functioning laptops. "Those of us who opt for a second attempt will have to wait till the lockdown lifts. They’ll be hanging by a thread without a degree on their hands, whereas all of their classmates would have graduated and received provisional degrees," said a student who claims to have limited internet access.
Students also claimed that there have been cases where their batchmates faced innumerable issues while taking the demo test on this software such as their hard-drives being affected, their internet bandwidth being highly unsufficient, viruses entered their systems and finally that the test didn’t run at all. "Some of our friends in remote areas did not have the option to run the demo test at all since they barely get any internet speed. We are afraid how this inefficient, barely tested, uncertain software platform affects our grades if in case we run into any technical glitches," said a student.
In response, the UPES VC said that the institute has conducted the online exam for 918 students on the first day and only nine of them faced difficulty. "Out of these nine students five of them logged in within a few minutes while the others took 10 to 20 minutes to be back online. The blanket instruction was to give them the extra time required — whatever time they had lost due to the technical difficulties. The standing committee that we have formed has the Registrar, the IT Head of the institute and the Controller of Examination and will also have the concerned Dean and the teacher who taught the particular paper. If a student has any complaint about the exam, they can be addressed by these people," he said. "I have replied to every mail that has come to me. May be not personally but I have directed the concerned professors or officials to reply. The students can always come to us if they have problems while they are taking the test," Dr Rai added.