Even as other universities in the State are reluctant to experiment with technology as far as the examination process, especially the question paper part, is concerned, the Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Belgaum, has embraced the system in a big way.
From this year's examination, technology would go beyond digital evaluation with the implementation of the online Question Paper Delivery System (QPDS) replacing the physical distribution of papers to the affiliated colleges.
QPDS aims to increase transparency and prevent question paper leakage by eliminating two steps which have been associated with malpractices — transport of the question papers and their storage in store rooms manned by officials.
The project — coming under the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT) executed under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, which envisages a greater role of technology in the learning and examination process — would involve distribution of papers to 203 colleges, cumulatively with around 67,000 undergraduate students and 12,000 postgraduate students.
Around 75 per cent of the cost required to install 10 Mbps network lines to the colleges would be borne by the HRD Ministry.
VTU Registrar (Evaluation) G.N. Krishnamurthy, at a workshop held recently about VTU's digitisation processes, explained how the QPDS works: only authorised systems can be used in the entire process, both at the VTU as well as the affiliated colleges. The Registrar (Evaluation) logs in to the examination portal through a registered system. He selects the examination, date of examination, session, and chooses the question paper folder to be uploaded.
The question papers are uploaded 45 minutes before the commencement of the examination. The software allocates the relevant question papers to each college based on the examination application data received from each college.
A secret key to access the question papers is delivered to each college around 30 minutes before the examination. In each college, the principal, deputy chief superintendent and a systems administrator appointed by VTU will be responsible for the QPDS.
According to VTU officials, the question papers cannot be stored in the form of a soft copy as it is completely destroyed once the printing is completed. In addition, a specific time period for printing is given which has to be adhered to. Once the question paper is sent to the printer, the number of copies required (determined by the examination applications received from each college) gets printed.
When told that other universities were showing resistance to adopting technology owing mainly to cost and connectivity issues, Mr. Krishnamurthy said that ultimately, the varsities would have to give in. “True, it all depends on the infrastructure available at the colleges and their location. We don't have the exact cost of the QPDS, but as competition to bag the tenders increases, the costs also come down. Just like cellphones and the Internet became part of our routine lives even though they are additional expenditures, technology in the examination procedures too will have to be adopted sometime,” he said.