DU Online Exams: Servers Crash, Chaos and Nightmare for Students

Why is the University so hell bent upon conducting these online exams and escaping all accountability for the functioning of the same?

DU Online Exams
Courtesy: Change.org

The DU online open-book exams (OBE) that started on August 10, have proven to be a nightmare for students, who had already given evidence of these issues during the long-drawn case in the Delhi High Court to decide whether these exams should take place. 

After the revised UGC guidelines had mandated exams for final year students to take place by September, the Delhi HC gave a nod to for the DU online exams to be conducted. However, Justice Pratibha Singh who passed the judgement, noted,

“It is a matter of record that hundreds of students have faced technical glitches while using the online portal of DU… In the present case, hearings over the last one month demonstrated several lacunae in the online OBE process. However, repeatedly, DU has taken the stand that it is fully prepared to conduct the examinations.”

The court directed the university to make certain measures to ease the examination process for students. These included an extra hour of time to all students to scan and upload their documents, another additional hour for PwD category students, that the question papers be made accessible on the website and through email, and auto-generated emails be sent to students to acknowledge that the answer sheet has been received. The court also directed the constitution of a grievance redressal committee, which will have retired judge of the Delhi HC, Justice Prathiba Rani, as its chairperson, to ensure transparent and fair redressal of grievances raised by students. 

According to Adreeta Chakraborty, a final year B.A. student at St Stephens college, the website crashed on the very first day of exams. “I thought it was an issue with my internet connection but I saw that everyone in my class was panicking at the same time, because the website had crashed for everyone at the last minute”, she said. The papers are exceptionally lengthy compared to previous exams, and students are required to physically write their answers, scan all the sheets, convert the files to PDF, and then upload them on the portal. The portal shuts down as soon as the exam duration ends, and any emails sent after that duration also lead to penalisation of the student.

 

She also pointed out that she faced these issues in spite of having access to a computer, smartphone, fast internet connection, and residing in a well connected metropolitan area. The issues were much more extreme and the exam process much more mentally distressing for students without access to technology, residing in flood affected areas, or internet lockdown affected areas like Kashmir. 

Elizabeth Hangsing, a student who resides in Aizawl, Mizoram, outlined similar problems which she faced while giving the DU online exams. These included malfunctioning of her internet connection and the time consuming process of scanning the individual sheets. The process of sending a grievance email at the last minute was also distressing. For her, the number of attachments she was required to attach (33 PDFs of 1 MB each) exceeded the file limit (25 MB) and she was not able to send the email by the stipulated time. In a ridiculous turn of events, the email address set up by the university to address grievances could not be found. Saumya Saxena who lives in Faridabad mentioned the issue of a power cut that she had. Many students in Kerala mentioned that due to the heavy rains, the internet connection had been slow and erratic. The University was also not able to provide free PDFs of all the books required for the exams.

 

The important thing to note is that these issues were not unexpected and had been pointed out to the Delhi High Court and denied by the University. For students whose graduation depends on such technicalities and institutional incompetencies that they are not responsible for, this myriad of issues is extremely distressing. Yet, even after all of these issues were pointed out on the first day of the exam, the University filed an appeal against the HC order in order to reverse the few relaxations that had been given to the students. 

 

Why is the University so hell-bent upon conducting these online exams and escaping all accountability for the functioning of the same? The OBE is being hosted on a server of Amazon Web Services, with whom the University has made a deal, and to whom the students are paying their exam fees. 

This examination process then, opposed by both students and professors, is vehemently supported by the administration as part of a larger move towards privatisation through online education, where crucial university functions are being outsourced for profit, to the detriment of the quality and accessibility of education.

 

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