Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis across the globe, it is necessary that educational activities have to be continued with maximum effectiveness as possible by making the process more flexible and effective for the students as well as for the universities. In alignment with this agenda, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had conducted four virtual meetings with stakeholders from universities throughout the nation and had come up with major guidelines for the successful charting of current as well as upcoming academic years. The main objectives of the meetings were:
- Conceptualizing measures to continue educational activities without compromising on health and safety of students and faculty members.
- Completion of course along with examination and publication of results without delay.
- Aiding students in admission procedure for next academic session as well as to help with their participation in research and training.
- Mapping an effective plan for the next academic session.
Following are the significant issues that the committee brought under consideration with suggestions for implementation:
- One among the significant considerations made that has to be noted is regarding the dates of commencement of classes and examinations. The classes for current batches (2nd and 3rd-year students) have to commence from first of August 2020 and their examinations have to be conducted from first of January 2021 to the twenty-fifth of the month, followed by the commencement of even semester by twenty sevenths of January 2021. The commencement of classes for fresh batches will be on first of September 2020 and their admission procedures have to be completed first to thirty first of August 2020.
- For those batches in the 2019-2020 academic year, their pending examinations have to conducted from first to fifteenth of July 2020 (for final semester or year) and from sixteenth to thirty first of July 2020 (for intermediate semester or year). All their dissertation or project works, internship reports, lab records, completion of syllabus, uploading of internal assessment marks and assignments as well as placement drives should happen within the stipulated time period between sixteenth to thirty first of May 2020. It has to be noted that all these works are completed using virtual platforms, including E-labs and practical examination can also be conducted through online modes if necessary. Followed by the completion of all these works, the students will have a summer vacation from first to thirtieth of June, followed by examinations in July as mentioned earlier. The anticipated time for publication of results is from is thirty first of July for terminal semester or year and fourteenth of August for intermediate semester or year.
- A lot of flexible regulations are offered to universities for taking decisions regarding examinations. Apart from the usual pattern of evaluation in 100 marks (70 marks from university examination and 30 marks from internal assessment), if required and the situation demands for more control, universities can conduct examinations using other methods as well. For instance, if needed, universities can reduce the total duration of three hours to two hours for exams. Similarly, examinations can also be conducted in alignment with CBCS scheme including MCQ/ OMR based examinations, Open Book Examinations, Open Choices, assignment/ presentation-based assessments or other related methods. Additionally, in case of severe situation, in order to maintain social distancing, universities are also provided an option to calculate final marks by aggregating 50% of internal assessment scores and 50% of students’ performance in previous semester. However, this option should be adopted only for intermediate semester or year. Instead of the university examination, assigning project works, mini-reviews, assignments, open-book tests etc. could also be considered, even for the first-year students. However, all these flexible methods should be adopted only if the situation demands for it and also should be implemented without compromising on the quality and efficacy. For the final semester or year students, the examinations will be conducted in the most reasonable way possible by following all guidelines of social distancing.
- As a more flexible guideline, it will be permitted to adopt “carry forward” for those students who fail in the current examinations. However, such students may have to attend the failed exams whenever it is conducted next. Additionally, students are also given an opportunity to improve their grades by enrolling for the present courses in the next academic year if needed.
- All the guidelines provided for examinations have to be followed uniformly by every university across India and also student have to be informed in advance about the commencement of examinations.
- It is issued by the committee to conduct online classes for students through diverse virtual platforms available and also to conduct laboratory works online. The committee has noticed that few institutions suffer from technical difficulties. However, as far as possible, the committee encourages colleges to have a face to face communication facility for teachers and students so that students participate more actively and the attendance rates will be high. There should also be a provision for discussions and clarification of doubts. The teachers can also submit their feedback for assignments online. Regarding dissertations and project works, considering the fact that laboratory experiments and field/survey-based studies would be challenging and difficult in the current scenario, the universities are permitted to replace those studies with review-based or secondary data-based assignments. The classes have to be taken for six days in a week in order to complete the syllabus within the stipulated time. Also for the upcoming academic session as well, it is recommended to schedule classes on a six days per week basis.
- For research students (MPhil and PhD), the duration for submission of the thesis should be extended for six months and Viva Voce examination could be conducted through virtual platforms, by ensuring that all members required for participation are able to avail the facilities adopted.
All the above guidelines are declared by notwithstanding the diverse challenges and technical issues related with it. Thus, the committee provides universities with permission to organize their practices with few modifications and by adopting alternative ways, by following the fundamental framework provided by UGC. Additionally, it is also proposed that taking into consideration this pandemic situation, universities will have to be equipped with online teaching and ensure the availability of e-content in order to prepare for similar unprecedented situations in future. Teachers should have to be trained on how to use virtual platforms for conducting classes. While implementing all the guidelines proposed above, universities also have to adopt the necessary actions to take care of the health and safety of students and faculty members.
For further information, refer to the report of the UGC Committee on Examinations and Academic Calendar for the Universities in View of COVID-19 Pandemic and Subsequent Lockdown.