Why are there no takers for 'on-demand' exams?


Write when you are ready, is the ambitious mantra that the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is chanting, but is anyone actually listening? IGNOU recently launched the revolutionary ‘on-demand examinations’ this year for two certificate courses in the Delhi region with a view to extend it to other courses and centres but the system is yet to find any takers.

Under the scheme, examinations are conducted at the convenience of the student, and not according to any predetermined schedule. Inspired by the relative success of the system at the secondary level in the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), IGNOU launched it for two courses — Certificate in Guidance (CIG) and Certificate in Organic Faming (COF).
However, low awareness along with logistical and technological constraints have cast a cloud of uncertainty over what was touted as an answer to several structural and operational problems haunting the examination system of open and long distance education in the country.
The Registrar (Evaluation) of IGNOU, Dr Srikant Mohapatra, says, “We took this on as a pilot project, but its future is uncertain. For the system to work we need to streamline the security and develop an extensive question bank.” He adds that since the on-demand examination system works on an online platform, there has to be an extensive database of questions to avoid repetition.

And further, the system has thrown up several technological complications. Dr B Sudhindra, Regional director of IGNOU, says, “At the moment the system is not ready and the existing system is an online system which is heavily dependent on technology. There could be possibilities only if the technology is made more affordable and accessible.” Further, he indicates that the possibility of the system being extended to other regions is heavily dependent on open universities having their own campuses.
But for those who work closely with the system at NIOS, the merits are far greater than the demerits and so, there is no reason as to why the system cannot work at the higher education level.

Arvind, an executive officer at Noida-based NIOS, has worked closely with their ‘on demand’ examination system and says that it is ideally suited for open education. “The students write their examinations only after learning has taken place. The other big advantage is students do not waste their academic years as they appear (for exams) only when they think they are ready,” he says. NIOS offers the ‘on-demand’ system only at two of its centres —for Class 10 and 12 at its Noida centre, and for Class 10 in its Pune campus.

Mohini Sharma, a counsellor at the Pune-based Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), was part of a committee that did a feasibility check on implementing the system. She believes that the system works with international students and has the potential to overcome scheduling and other logistical issues.
“It might work in distance learning but the sheer volume of students which our system handles makes it an expensive proposition,” she says. But she’s quick to add that the system could well be one for the future provided there are changes to the existing classroom-oriented set-up, and of course, more affordable technology.

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