Petition to VTU to skip examinations and establish an alternate mode of evaluation

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As we all know the world is facing an unprecedented crisis in the form of a global pandemic. In these trying times, one of the most impacted communities all across the world is the student community, and especially the 36 crore students in our country of India. Out of the 36 crore, the 5 lakh students studying under the Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) collegiate in the state of Karnataka have undergone tumultuous hardships so far.

The universities and colleges throughout India have completely transitioned into online learning and have adopted digital methodologies for imparting education, but what has been greatly overlooked is the feasibility of these techniques and their effectiveness in imparting education. The governments, the education councils, and universities have all put up a pretense of online education being a wonderful success and have requested all the students to compromise and adjust to the new normal, as every member of humankind must do to contribute to the fight against the menace of COVID-19. But the most important factor that has conveniently escaped the minds of the educational authorities but has firmly rooted itself in the minds of the students is the harmful effect of the compensatory measures and the academic schedules planned by the education ministries and the universities that are to be executed after the pandemic dissipates and the world decides to find its footing in education once again.

I would now like to highlight the major problems that are being faced by students under VTU that have been blatantly ignored by the university administration, because of their inability to adequately cope with the current prevailing situation of emergency and its influence upon the functioning of universities throughout the state.

 

Lack of facilities and the unavailability of essential services for availing online classes

  • Nowhere in the guidelines it has been expressly specified that possession of a laptop or a smartphone device that can assist in availing online classes is compulsory for any course or curriculum under VTU.
  •  The online facilities can only be accessed by the economically privileged who are residing in urban areas during this lockdown period and also have the privilege of satisfactory technology and a bare minimum, stable internet connection that can facilitate live online classes.
  •  Lack of standard infrastructure that is universally implemented for online learning.
  •  The absence of optimal technology and services results in disruptive and unproductive learning.
  •  The current prevailing situation due to the pandemic is truly exceptional in nature and has caught the management of all colleges and universities off-guard. To say that the managements are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to impart education online would be a grave understatement. There are no predefined guidelines or regulations laid down to tackle such a spontaneous crisis. This gives the institutions the liberty to exploit their position and make decisions and lay down rules that are heavily disadvantageous to the students.

 

Overloaded Syllabus

  •  The syllabus currently in place was prepared for the normal scenario of internal and external evaluations and is incompatible with the current situation of emergency.
  •  Students are incapable of absorbing the entire syllabus designed originally for four months of in-person teaching by learning in a foreign setting.
  •  The effectiveness of the online medium of learning is nowhere close enough to replicate the actual in-person offline sessions that were usually conducted. VTU is graciously turning a blind eye to this fact and believes that a month of crash course nature revision will be enough to prepare the students for the original full fledged examination.

 

Zero experience of the faculties

  •  Most of the faculties in VTU affiliated colleges are woefully underprepared when it comes to imparting education online. They are completely out of their depth and lack any kind of training in taking online sessions or managing education software.
  •  The faculties of all universities are under constant pressure from VTU and their respective college managements to deliver satisfactory online sessions. Their inability and helplessness are doing so makes the online sessions counterproductive.
  •  The faculties are alienated by most of the new technologies and resources that have been provided to them and cannot conduct online classes to their full potential.
  •  Many faculties, like students are dependent on their institutions which had provided them with internet connections and digital platforms to facilitate digital learning. As this is no longer a possibility, these faculties also suffer from a lack of resources.

 

Mental State of the Students

  •  The environment outside the classroom is completely different from the atmosphere inside a classroom. Students living out the lockdown at home or in paying guest accommodations cannot develop the same level of concentration and seriousness as in a real-world classroom.
  •  Many households are undergoing severe crises due to the current situation arising from the pandemic. Economic, familial, and social issues may render the environments of the students not conducive for learning.
  •  Most students are suffering from the incomprehensible and inexplicable stress and anxiety that has naturally accompanied the situation of the pandemic. Although VTU is taking measures to alleviate the mental distress of the students, the effects of mental disease have a drastic impact on the learning capability of students.

 

Project Work and Internships for the senior years

  •  The pandemic has put all project work and internships to a complete stop. Project work that needed to be done in collaboration with other students, required the supervision and guidance of faculties and the ratification and endorsement of the technical community has been severely affected. The post-COVID-19 situation will not be contributive or beneficial to these projects.
  •  The internship offers received by college students from IT firms and startups have all been suspended until further notice. The valuable time of vacations and holidays that had been invested and put aside by students for the sole purpose of internships can never be recovered under any circumstance.

 

Other Important Issues

  •  Students are incurring heavy expenses due to the continuous purchase of data plans, as their selected data plan within their budget is insufficient for online learning. There is a shortage of data for emergency purposes.
  •  Students are forced to stare at a computer screen for a prolonged period daily to consume the online sessions. This has an adverse effect on their health and well being.
  •  Students have experienced many instances where the faculties who are conducting online classes have become mentally unstable and have been abusing and bullying students online.

 


OUR REQUEST TO VTU

 
All the students signing this petition understand and wholeheartedly support all the efforts of their respective colleges and universities, VTU, UGC, AICTE, and the HRD Ministry and openly acknowledge that in these desperate times they are doing everything in their power to mitigate the academic loss that is being faced by the students and to facilitate uninterrupted, quality education anyone can avail from anywhere, anytime from their safety and security of their homes. We also understand that the educational authorities are trying to cope with a disaster that is out of their control and are facing acute setbacks in the coordination, determination, and maintenance of higher education.

BUT

This is an unprecedented crisis that has fallen upon the world and humanity, and the students of VTU are in no way responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak that is ravaging the country. Therefore, the students alone cannot compensate for the massive loss of time brought about by the global pandemic by compromising on their right to an acceptable career and future by pushing ahead with the academic calendar and accepting the decision of VTU to normally resume the semester after the reopening of educational institutions that was abruptly brought to a halt before the lockdown.

The students who have signed this petition are against the decision of VTU to recommence the even semester that had been suspended due to the pandemic and put forward the following proposition.

Students from all semesters must be declared passed based on the evaluation of their understanding and learning from online classes in the form of MCQ tests, internal assignments or assessment papers, projects and/or research coursework, online MOOC certifications/online internship experience proving their depth of knowledge in respective course subjects.

All the petitioners hold a firm opinion that if the current semester is resumed under the provisional guidelines decreed by the University Grants Commission (UGC), it would have disastrous consequences and cause irreparable damage on the overall grades and technical development of all VTU students which would be greatly detrimental to their career and prospects.

Consequently, all the signers of this petition and supporters of this proposition humbly request the VTU administration, AICTE, UGC, and Karnataka state government to take the aforementioned proposal under serious consideration and deliver a ruling that is favorable and in the best interest of the student community.