M Zahidul Haque
IT is much difficult to assess student’s performance on completion of an online course. A question naturally arises-“Would the Universities award a degree without taking at least a final examination?” This author remembers a popular saying—“Student life could have been the best part of life, had there been no examination!” In fact, running a course on online platforms is possible in spite of a number of limitations. But assessing a student’s performance or course outcome is very much difficult. In Bangladesh, as most of the classrooms are overcrowded, it is rather complicated to run online courses because not all the students enjoy the opportunity to attend such online sessions owing to a number of reasons, for instance, not all students have an Internet connectivity, personal computer or laptop.
Moreover, sufferings caused by the on-going corona pandemic together with the present devastating floods have added additional threat to the smooth running of online classes.
Nevertheless, educational institutions are trying their best to run online courses. However, assessment of online courses in case of social studies/social sciences may be possible but assessment or evaluation of practical courses, particularly in technical degree programs, such as, agriculture, medicine, and engineering cannot be done without accomplishing lab and field work as required for the respective degrees.
Nearly six months have passed since coronavirus aggressively invaded the entire human race. Bangladesh has also sustained the corona shock which jeopardized all most all the segments of social and economic life. All the educational institutions of the country had to be closed down with extra-ordinary leave. Students of all levels have been staying out of the academic system; no formal instruction, no class-room learning, no final examination! How long this corona pandemic would persist is really unpredictable. So, digital transformation of the academic system becomes the need of the hour. Educational institutions all over the world have chosen e-learning or online learning tools to offering instructions to the students. Among the various available Learning Management System (LMS), educational institutions are using Google classroom, Moodle, Zoom, and the like. Facebook has also been turned into an effective platform for running the teaching-learning process.
In Bangladesh, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has introduced official online teaching-learning system with the technical support of Bd-REN. Many universities of the country including Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University have successfully launched online classes using the Zoom application software. The online teaching-learning process is going on but the issue of online assessment showed up as a major obstacle on the path to successful accomplishment of the goal of online education.
There are some problems and factors in assessing performance/outcomes of the online instructions, such as: –Students can adopt unfair means to answer direct online question by using Internet resources plus communication with other students to solve questions.
–Instructors need to attain necessary skill for setting questions. An examiner has to decide what type of question s/he will set to properly assess student’s performance or outcomes in the course. S/he may set K-type questions, short-answer questions, essay questions and the like to evaluate students.
–Exam schedule and time adjustment. Meanwhile, under the present circumstances, universities can adopt the following strategies for assessing students:
–Students studying in different years excluding the final year may be promoted to their next classes by taking the theoretical examinations. The final year students can also sit in this examination. The result of such exams should be only pass or fail.
–All the practical exams including the final exam may be kept in abeyance till normalization of the situation or getting adjusted to ‘new normal’.
–Some exams may be replaced by term assignments.
–Some subject matters may be kept aside for oral exam which may be conducted through online interviews.
–Condensation of course curriculum retaining important and most relevant issues.
–‘Open book’ examination may be allowed by presenting critical issues to students to answer questions through consulting books and peer-review.
It is hoped that the present pandemic will soon be over. The teachers however need to develop or gain necessary skill plus competence in running online education including preparation of audio-video course materials. Universities may set Question Banks for ensuring a transparent and unbiased online examination. Hopefully, the on-going online instructions will create a favourable learning environment which will ultimately help in saving academic year plus student’s future.
(The author is a Professor in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Information System, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka-1207)