Online Exams, Job Uncertainty Loom Large Over IIT-G Final Year Students
With the Coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of abating all across the globe the students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati are faced with uncertainty over their exams, jobs and future.
The cyclone ‘Amphan’ had devastated the states of Odisha and West Bengal where some of these students reside. The desert locust attack in many parts of India has added to their misery as students from families of agricultural background seem to be disturbed due to the series of unfortunate events.
Above all, most final year students have complained of having lost their jobs that they had clinched through the campus recruitment process, while many are on the verge of losing the same given the prolonged effects of the pandemic. A few recruiting companies have deferred the date of joining by almost 6-7 months and there is a lot of uncertainty as to how students would sustain till then. The delay is further adding to the stress as students fear deterioration in their overall health and well-being.
In addition to these problems, a lot of students are residents of Red Zones and Containment Zones with ailing parents or siblings or on-duty family members who need to go to hospitals regularly; living under such risk, students believe that the stress is also taking a toll on their mental health.
The Incomplete Grading factor
A few other students who feared losing their placement opportunities due to the “Incomplete Grading” approach of the University took their complaints to the Students’ Welfare Board. Incomplete Grading would mean that the students would have to come back to the University and give their exams at a later date which would further mean delayed results.
“We had an end semester exam but due to a technical glitch, I couldn’t submit the assignment on time. Despite the guidelines issued by the Dean of Academic Affairs (DOAA), the professor gave us only 3 hours for the exam,” said a student under condition of anonymity.
“He declined our request to consider sheets sent by mail and the weightage of the exam was only 10 marks. I’d be okay if he gives me a zero but he says he will give me an ‘I’ grade and I will lose my job if I do not get my degree on time,” the student added, requesting the welfare board to bring up the issue with higher authorities over the confusion being caused by the new grading system.
To find out more, G Plus contacted Professor PK Iyer, Dean, Public Relations, Branding and Ranking of IIT, Guwahati who thereafter, in consultation with concerned authorities, issued an official statement to clear the air around the same.
“Students may opt for 'I' (Incomplete) grade if there are serious difficulties in Electricity/Network or Physical/Mental issues. Once the institute resumes academic activities, based on the convenience of the instructors, reassessment for 'I' grade will be completed,” read the statement released by the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.
Further, the institute informed, “An 'Academic Grievances Cell' has been formed by the institute for handling all grievances of students related to examinations and other academic difficulties arising due to the Covid-19 pandemic and institute is looking for the well-being of its students.”
Allegations of poor response to students’ difficulties
The student community, on the other hand, seemed to be worried due to poor response from the institute authorities when the Students’ Welfare Board approached them with problems being faced by students.
“The IIT Guwahati community is diverse with students of a variety of financial and geographical backgrounds. There is a disparity in financial capacity of different families. Some cannot even afford reliable internet. Students residing in rural areas or in areas with very poor connectivity and power cuts are suffering greatly,” said Aaditya Sanwal, General Secretary of the Students’ Welfare Board, talking to G Plus.
“The Institute conducts assessments with short deadlines (1-3 hours) and it is becoming too much for many students to bear. The students are facing many such problems resulting in them not being able to submit on time. The environment at home is not academically productive for all this. In these difficult situations there are students who have even not reached their homes and are stuck at some relatives' place for more than 50 days. The productivity in such conditions is bound to decrease,” added the student leader.
He went on to say that, in a similar scenario, other IITs have announced relaxations for their students to relieve stress in this difficult time. On the other hand, these short duration submissions are adding to the stress of students of IIT Guwahati. The students are stressed and had requested for a minimum of 24 hours’ time for any submission. Since this was not implemented, the students had requested for an assurance that no student would be made to fail this semester, considering the current critical scenario.
“Similar provisions have been made in IIT Kanpur and ISM Dhanbad. The problems may be difficult to even imagine for someone living in a controlled environment like IITG campus but they are very real and at the same time the requests from the students is the very least the administration can accommodate, to ease up some stress in this difficult scenario for us,” said the general secretary of the students’ welfare body who had been approached by a number of students suffering from these problems.
Various problems being faced by students
G Plus also got in touch with a student who is a part of the batch that is 800 students strong. The student narrated problems faced by him and his fellow batch mates.
“A series of incidents had been taking place but the main trigger was when there was a course ‘MA 102’ in which the professor had announced a quiz due to which students had to arrange for their internet connectivity because they were initially told that the marks from the test would be carried forward towards their end semester grading. Some students managed to appear somehow but after the quiz, the professor announced that this was a surprise test for our self assessment and that this would not be used for evaluation of end semester exams,” he said.
“Students already have limited resources back home; we’re all not from the same background. Some of us reside in Kolkata and parts of Odisha where Amphan has caused immense devastation. Despite that, we have online assessments and it got difficult for most students to sit for these due to connectivity issues post the cyclonic storm. The institute had taken feedback earlier from students and it was clear that most students would find it difficult to appear for such online tests despite which a series of tests have been being conducted by the authorities,” alleged the student.
Another student of the institute from the same batch, a resident of Pune, Maharashtra said, “The locality where I reside is in the Red Zone. Every 4 days, we are screened and our temperature is taken. Any person with slightly high temperature is straightaway quarantined. A couple of days ago when my temperature was slightly high, I was quarantined. During that time I had two assignments to complete and one paper was part of the end semester exam. I tried explaining my problem to the professors but they absolutely refused to listen to my problem.”
“My father is in the Insurance sector and has to keep visiting hospitals which is another issue of concern for us given the current situation and my mother has to be taken to the hospital regularly because of her ailments. I have recently missed one assessment because I had to take my mother to the hospital. What other option did I have? I had to choose between the online assessment and my mother so I obviously chose the latter,” said the student expressing his distress.
Further shedding light on the deteriorating condition of students of the institute, who are unable to take the academic stress, he said, “In my area itself, we suffer from 12-hour long power cuts and I am still from a relatively privileged family, I have friends from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who are from remote villages where they face too many problems. They barely have electricity. Doing assignments and submitting these assignments within a 3 or 4 hour time frame is next to impossible. We have also asked for extension of the time to submit, at least a 24 hour window but our professors think that we’re making excuses!”
“Those sitting inside the campus have all facilities, right from electricity to internet connectivity; one or two of the hostels get converted into Quarantine Centres and the entire Institute is worried about their safety but some of us are living in Containment Zones here and other places without such privileges, What about us?” questioned another student of the same batch.
The Institute’s response
In response to such queries and allegations the Institute authorities replied saying, “All the students are given sufficient options by the institute regarding completion of online assessment. All Course Instructors are instructed to provide sufficient time (not strictly 3-4 hours as in conventional exam, may even allow 24 hours if need be) for the submission of all the types of online assessment including assignment, open-book examination and term paper for the benefit of the student.”