MAHE colleges cancel online exams following outrage from students4 min read
MANIPAL: Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Commerce (DOC), Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (WGSHA), Manipal Institute of Communication (MIC) and other constituent institutes of Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) have cancelled the scheduled online end semester examinations after students conducted online protests against MAHE’s earlier decision. Students had collectively taken to social media to express their objections and grievances regarding the online exam amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier in May, students were briefed about the online continuation of their academic schedule and were asked to make arrangements to write exams using an online tool. By the end of the month, it was informed that the online tool in question was PEXA Lite, a software developed by a Singaporean edu-tech firm called LittleMore Innovation Labs. This software is only operable on laptops or PCs with a Windows operating system.
Through circulars, the management conveyed that students who would be unable to attempt the online examinations could appear for the conventional method of assessment after the reopening of college. They also added that those who are not satisfied with their current grades could reappear for back-log exams once college resumes. In order to address all the issues regarding online examinations and academics during the lockdown, MAHE set up a five-member student grievances cell. The Manipal Journal reached out to this cell, but they chose not to comment regarding the situation and mentioned that talks are underway.
However, tensions among the student community flared as they claimed that their concerns and queries were being neglected by the management. They created Google forms to address challenges faced by individuals and created petitions which garnered almost 1,500 signatures in less than 24 hours. Parents and their wards belonging to various MAHE colleges also sent emails to teachers and the administration requesting them to consider alternative methods of examination. Tweets and emails were also addressed to the University Grants Commission (UGC) for legal and formal traction.
A page named @manipal.against.end.sems issued an open letter to the management of MAHE highlighting the various problems faced by students and offered suggestions for the convenience of students and the management alike.
The letter included reasons put forth by the students, such as inefficiency of online classes for completing the syllabus and poor mental health during the pandemic. A large portion of students, hailing from Kashmir and cyclone Amphan-affected regions cited that they did not have access to a stable internet connection, which would cause disruptions during the exams. The letter also added the students who owned computers with Mac operating systems and those who left their laptops in Manipal were asked to borrow or rent laptops for the duration of the exams when they asked for solutions from the faculty and management. They emphasised on the impracticality of borrowing/ renting laptops during the lockdown when most retailers and repair stores were closed. Additionally, students claimed that giving exams after returning to campus would add to their academic burden, as they would have to prepare for two semesters at once.
Students from International Centre of Applied Sciences (ICAS) and MIT who appeared for mock tests on PEXA Lite reported that the online medium had a virus. Many of them were asked to disable their firewall and antivirus protection software before installing the app, which put their devices at risk. Some students also said that their laptops had crashed post installation and only recovered 12 hours after the hardware was removed and reinstalled. According to claims, student portal login details consisting of private information like bank and Aadhaar card details were open to third parties without their consent. To retaliate against the use of the software and the exams, students of MAHE took to Twitter to trend #BoycottPexa, which gained over 15,200 tweets and trended at #3 in India on June 5.
“It was never about being against exams, exams should happen, but when it is convenient for students. We have concerns about the method, which I feel is being revised by the management to suit us better,” said Utsha Sarkar, President, Student Council – MIC.
On June 6, a circular issued by MIT announced the cancellation of final exams. As of now, there has been no confirmation about the alternative method which will be used to prorate marks for the semester. “Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary measures. Therefore, we are happy that the university did what was right for its students. It was a lot of struggle, but we were heard,” remarked Ishan Trivedi, Student Council, MIT.
According to further developments, DOC, WGSHA, MIC, KMC and MCOPS have also released circulars which announce the cancellation of the exams that were scheduled to be held in June and July. Other constituent units of MAHE are yet to issue a statement regarding the postponement or cancellation of the end semester exams.
Featured Image Courtesy: Official Website of MAHE / manipal.edu
Edited by: Vibha B Madhava