Private universities conducting academic activities virtually since the closure of educational institutions in March last year
Despite the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) green signal, financial aids and uniformed guidelines, the country’s public universities are still struggling to hold online exams amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
On the contrary, private universities have been conducting their educational activities virtually, overcoming the related hurdles, since the announcement of the closure of educational institutes in March last year.
Dhaka Tribune reached out to the vice chancellors and faculty members of at least 10 public universities in an attempt to find the answers.
The VCs claim that lack of uninterrupted electricity supply and stable internet connections have made the students reluctant from sitting for their exams online.
More time is needed to train and prepare a skilled workforce that can properly conduct exams online, the VCs observe.
On the other hand, the students also fear that they will get poor grades if they participate in online exams.
Public university teachers are also found to be unwilling to conduct exams online as they are yet to become accustomed with the changes and challenges that come with online education.
According to university officials, students find it easy to attend classes and theory-based exams online.
But those who come from medical, engineering, and other technical streams do not feel the same as they have both lab classes and exams—a task too difficult, but not impossible—to be performed virtually.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) was among the first public universities to start taking classes and exams online.
They evaluated their students based on a revised grading policy tailor-made for online education to avoid session jams.
But things have changed and the Buet authorities are no longer interested in continuing the online exams anymore.
Buet Prof Abul Kashem Mia said that the university had plans to start holding in-person exams from May or June this year.
“But the country’s Covid situation has worsened. Now the university’s academic council will make the final call regarding this. A meeting will be held in August.”
Ruet VC Prof Md Rafiqul Islam Sheikh said: “Most of our students live in remote areas. They do not have access to uninterrupted electricity and stable internet connections.
“These are the reasons why they are longer interested in online exams.”
The situation was similar for Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (Cuet), and Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (Kuet).
Authorities there echoed the Ruet VC and say that their experience with online education has worsened over time. They claim that the response from the students was “poor” in this regard.
Chittagong University VC Shireen Akhter said that they had facilitated online classes but the faculties were hesitant in taking exams virtually citing lack of experience.
“The students were also unwilling to attend exams online,” the VC added.
“We started taking in-person final exams of our honours, master’s students but couldn’t finish it due to the countrywide hard lockdown. The exams will resume soon after it ends.
“There will be a shortened syllabus, if needed, but we don’t want to hold these final exams online. With degrees obtained through online exams, our students will find it difficult to compete both home and abroad,” she further explained.
Meanwhile, Dhaka University recently said that it would hold online exams using Google Classroom, Zoom, and Cam Scanner software.
They even released a three-part video tutorial to familiarize the teachers as well as the examinees with the new system.
However, instead of transitioning to online mediums, they started taking in-person exams from June 15. But later the university authorities had to suspend all activities due to the Covid lockdown.
Social Sciences Faculty Dean Dr Sadeka Halim said: “Although few departments are conducting exams online, most of the faculties are determined to hold in-person exams due to different limitations.
“Also, online classes and exams have not proven to be as effective as it was thought.”
Meanwhile, Jahangirnagar University, and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (Sust) are currently taking online classes and exams.
JU VC Farzana Islam said that they were able to ensure 100% participation of the students in online exam activities.
“Students are being given assignments. They are participating in hour-long online exams. They are also sitting for online viva.
“We have experienced no issues with the initiative so far,” she added.
Sust VC Prof Farid Uddin Ahmed said: “Our final year students are done with their online exams.
“Students of other semesters will soon give their exams online too.”
National University VC Prof M Mashiur Rahman said that to avoid session jam, they were planning to hold MCQ-based online exams for their students.
Sources from the other public universities said that they also wanted to hold in-person exams and were willing to postpone any activity until the institutions could be fully reopened following the vaccination of the students and teachers.
UGC Member Prof Muhammed Alamgir thinks it is the fault of the university administrations that they could not conduct online exams.
“This happened due to their indecisiveness.
“Had the universities continued the exams and classes as per the UGC guidelines, they would have been able to avoid session jams amid ongoing pandemic,” Prof Alamgir added.