Mahatma Gandhi University has completed the trial run of the system and its 17 departments will log on to it from 2014-15

Mahatma Gandhi University will soon adopt an automated system of conducting examinations. The first such in the State, the system is expected to reduce the delay in the declaration of the examination results, a long-standing problem for the university.

The integration of the examination system at the university level will make the process scalable and dynamic and in tune with the other ongoing e-governance initiatives, authorities say.

The university completed the trial run of the ambitious project recently — an internal examination conducted online for M.Sc. Computer Science students at the School of Computer Science. Its smooth conduct made the university decide to convert the mode of examinations of postgraduate programmes at its 17 departments from the academic year 2014-15.

Never-ending process

Pro Vice-Chancellor Sheena Shukkur, who is leading the efforts, says the university conducts examinations almost every month. The declaration of results takes a long time, affecting students, and the dates of examinations and declaration of results vary among universities. Hence, many students lose chances to gain admission to universities or courses of their choice.

On the limitations of the paper-pen examination system, Dr. Shukkur says that although the process is organised in well-defined examination branches, the movement of paper-based records is slow. The examination process in the system continues for months, causing physical and mental strain for the examinees. In addition, students are required to correspond by post or visit the university headquarters in person for examination-related queries. Even examination applications have gone untraceable because of the increased load on the examination branches. “The conventional paper-pen examination system leads to errors, greater time consumption, inefficiency and waste of valuable resources. Moreover, the ever-increasing paper-based record registers are difficult to store securely because of space scarcity. There is repetition of work because the same data is recorded in different branches. This leads to data duplication, and huge money is spent by the university to buy paper. Tampering with students’ records is possible. At times, fake degrees are prepared and no online verification is done. This leads to unfair practices and mars the credibility of the university,” she says.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor reasons that the traditional examination system was meant for times when there were fewer students and courses.

However, at present, with the gross enrolment ratio in higher education going up, the examination system has to bear an increased load, leading to inefficiencies.

Automation, she says, has been aimed at minimising human intervention since information and communication technology promises compact storage and speedy data retrieval. The technology can be used right from student administration to resource administration in an educational institution, where administrative subsystems include personnel, student, resources, financial and general administration. The concept of integration of the examination system will bring in scalable, transparent and vigorous e-governance solutions as the examination system can be put under a single portal system.

Integrated data

By integrating and storing student data from different branches of examination in a central server on a university networking system, the data can be made available anywhere, anytime and inconsistencies minimised, Dr. Shukkur says.

Among the benefits are a streamlined system and procedure for collection of examination fees, issue of receipts and keeping track of the cash flow. There will be a centralised, secure and robust database of the candidates without duplication of records.

The automated process will bring improvement in the quality of services to the stakeholders by introducing a computerised window system and online availability of information.

The complete computerisation of the examination system will lead to the effective monitoring of the examination processes, minimising the possibility of fraud. The computerised statistical analysis of data will enable the university management to observe trends in results, and the timely availability of compiled reports can be used to make strategic decisions in favour of the university and students.

Dr. Shukkur says the newly structured process will not be imposed upon students. “The project will be implemented only after holding detailed consultations and taking students, guardians and other stakeholders into confidence,” she says. Regular training programmes will be conducted for the students to enhance their computer proficiency. The IT Department of the State government has evinced interest in supporting the project.

Among the challenges for implementing the project, Dr. Shukkur says, is the non-availability of the necessary ICT infrastructure. “There is no proper housing facility for these technologies. Sometimes, computers are purchased ahead without making any proper plans or without furnishing the room or building to install them,” she says.

Some are reluctant to adopt new technology. Some of the universities were established in the 1980s, and most of their faculty members may be nearing retirement. Changing mindsets will hence be difficult, she adds.