Monday, June 7, 2010

Is Online Examination Going to be the Future of India?

So before I present you my opinion on the online assessment, let me gather your attention towards the movie 3idiots. It was a site to watch Aamir Khan and his friends running from the hospital to give the exam and the way they kept writing after the time was up and not to forget how Aamir managed to mix up the papers with the rest, as the professor was unaware of their roll numbers. Well this luxury would surely not be accessible in online examinations. Online assessment is a step towards making the assessment more secure, transparent and fast. Such an assessment has become easier because of the fast and accurate computers as well as the improvement in technology over the years. With over a million people sitting for entrance examinations, it’s really not surprising to see the shift from traditional exams to the online exams.

Core reason for such a shift which is hard to ignore is the cost saving through online exams. Some experts suggest such a method reduces cost by approximately 20-50%. Moreover this method of conducting the exams provides flexibility to the students to choose as well as reschedule the dates of their respective examination. It ensures security, nullifies the error of transferring the question to the answer booklet, helps in faster assessment as it’s all done through the computers and reduces the chance of human error in calculations etc. It also nullifies the chances of leaked question papers. Online assessment is unbiased in a way that everyone gets the same time to complete their paper; so sadly, we can no more beg our teachers to give us two more minutes to write down even when the time is up. Reminds me of the good old school days, sigh! One can’t scan through the questions once the time is up. Also the marks awarded are through the computer, so no need to be a teacher’s pet anymore to get those extra marks! For the institutions also, it is more efficient to conduct online exams as it spares them the horror of distributing answer sheets to thousands of candidates, collecting the same, signing the sheets, transferring the answer scripts to the evaluation centres etc. Thus in turn there is no need to appoint large staff to check the answer sheets and tally marks.

Online exams are to some extent similar to the traditional paper pencil method in a way that one has the ability to move within the sections, change answers, review the answers etc. But I personally found it a bit stressful to give the exam online. It was very difficult to understand various buttons on the screen right before the exam and one has to take care of not pressing the “finish” button as it ends the paper right there. It’s all so much complicated unlike the traditional paper pencil method. The speed counts a lot in such exams. Some entrances have different sections in a paper and a particular time limit is allotted to respective section and ones the time is up, one cannot revisit the same questions again. How is it really helping the students? It’s building more pressure on them. It reminds me the teachers telling us to leave the questions which we would not know in the paper and do the ones which we knew perfectly first and then apply brains to those which we have left. Do we have such a luxury anymore? Well we don’t anymore have the luxury to even scan through the questions in the paper ones it’s in front of us; the shock comes one by one! We recently had the CAT exam online for the first time ever and it did face a lot of glitches in between. Many candidates could not sit for the exam on the particular day allotted to them because the server went down! Although they were given separate dates to appear for the same. Such a shift to online assessment would require a good infrastructure and technology that can adapt to the Indian requirements. In turn all this would require a lot of experimentation and up gradation of technology to make such a system a success.

According to a survey covering 75 university chancellors, registrars, controller of examinations and over 400 students across the country, 77% of these people consider introducing online exams, 68% revealed that they would conduct online exams in the next 6-36 months. 69% of all the students especially from the tier III cities stated that those institutes that conduct online exams are more technically advanced. Even though after facing the glitches in some of the entrance exams recently conducted by various institutions, it seems that the online exams are here to stay.

In my opinion, I’m strictly against such a shift as I consider it to be more stressful as compared to the traditional method of conducting exam. More over there needs to be a better infrastructural and technological development before we shift base the method of conducting the exams in our country. According to a study, the penetration of online assessment would increase by 5-10% in the next two years. Despite the snag faced, the universities still feel in positive impact of technology. So what’s your take on it? Are you ready to face the challenge?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest,

heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.

Just like a river must flow into the sea, my tryst with music was truly meant to be. This might sound primitive, but my stint with music dates back 15 years – yes, it was in 1995 that I hit the chord. It all started with a suggestion from Dad for me to learn the harmonium and there I was, all of 6, sitting in a music school and using my young pair of hands on instruments I had previously known little about.

Initially there to gain mastery of musical instruments, I found deep interest in classical singing thereby discovering a new talent in me. Funnily enough, the instruments appeared bigger than what I looked at that tender age and it surely had me uncomfortable to wonder if I was doing the right thing. To make things further twisted, I was the youngest of the lot there and hence the extra scare that I felt. But as they say, rest was history – as I began to recite the musical notes with my Guru, I underwent a transformation and soon gathered that I had found the right medium to express myself!

Just the way sugar mixes in a hot coffee, the same way I suffused into classical singing. It always used to relax my body and mind and helped me carve a soothing persona. Slowly but steadily, I also managed to effectively use few musical instruments such as the Harmonium, Tanpura and Tabla. While these instruments usually play in the background of any song and not many realize their essence, I grew with a special bond with them - I understood the beauty of music sans words.

While I feel blessed to have discovered music, the fact that it came at an early age also presented me with a peculiar challenge – balancing studies with a hobby I was (and still am) extremely passionate about taught me the art of time management and multi-tasking. Not only I continued to further explore my talent and also practice for stage performances, I continued to surprise myself with a consistent academic record.

It’s fascinating for me to look back into history and uncover instances of how music has helped - whenever I was bored of studying or felt low or burdened with the books, I would start humming the ragas and automatically my mind would be at peace. This not only helped me to de-stress and re-energize but also helped to imbibe a sense of confidence. As they say, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy!