Business education has been one of the most impacted industries during the pandemic. Most business schools, globally as well as in India, have traditionally been predominantly run on a ‘face to face’ in-class basis, the pandemic brought along with it social distancing norms and stringent safety protocols compelling business schools to deliver their programs online, overnight.
This quantum shift from ‘face to face’ delivery to an ‘online digital’ delivery needed a complete transition; right from faculty teaching methods, student mindset to attend online, technology absorption and above all the evaluation methodology; all of these in the backdrop of patchy internet connectivity and bandwidth, power outages and the distractions that come along at homes from where the faculty and students join in.
Business schools realized fairly early that it is not only training the faculty to teach and adopt technology to deliver online sessions that is crucial, but the evaluation and certification lie at the heart of prestigious business schools’ standing and cannot be compromised. While many online platforms for examinations existed and were used by business schools even before the pandemic, the emergence of proctored online platforms for exams created a ‘market pull’ to which selected companies responded quite well. The market soon saw the emergence of a selected few proctored exam options that business schools could choose from.
The challenges in the proctored exams are quite many; both for the business school as well as for a student perspective. Student preparedness to handle an exam from a domestic setting was a challenge; especially given the seriousness and focus the exams demanded. This is compounded with the internet connectivity and bandwidth issues and the power outage that is common in our country, across metro and rural geographies.
From a business school perspective, it is challenging to set up exams with very long durations like the way the traditional pen and paper exams are conducted. As students are taking up the exams remotely and given the internet, bandwidth and power outage issues, the duration of the exam needs to be shorter and sharper to effectively manage the overall exams. This leads to the question as to how the faculty can design a question paper that can precisely test the learning outcomes in the subject where the students are evaluated. An ‘objective’ multiple choice question paper although is best suited for seamlessly conducting an online exam, it may not be adequately testing the learning outcomes in subjective courses.
The faculty at Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai designed ‘subjective’ question papers that could evaluate the learning outcomes in a lesser duration over the internet. Further, training online proctors to the new normal where they need to be firm with the student’s conduct during the online exams, but at the same time also be fair became extremely critical. Especially since proctoring during examinations involved a nuanced invigilation allowing the student to deliver the exam without hindrance and disturbance, but at the same time ‘timely’ detection of unethical practices and flagging the same becomes crucial and drives the credibility of the exam and the institute.
The examination departments have been taking enormous responsibilities to ensure a fair and a firm play with the support of the proctors and technology to ensure the student has a seamless experience in attending and delivering the exams.
Especially given the unpredictability in internet, bandwidth and power outages, the challenges have been enormous. Great Lakes has delivered this for close to a year during the pandemic, as a concerted activity orchestrating among proctoring staff, faculty, technology and students, and have eventually come out with flying colors.
The author, Dr. Suresh Srinivasan is Professor of Strategy and Accounting and also Program Director, PGDM at Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai