Online Assessment: A Myth or A MythBuster?
“Man, last week my daughter’s online exam was conducted. She’s in 6th class, but the questions were so tough, even we had to search online for answers.” My close friend was telling me. “And why exactly were you searching?” I asked. “To help her, of course.” He gave me an instantaneous reply. I’m sure that you must have observed/ heard or participated in such or parallel events. One of my colleagues was proudly telling how his college-going son and his friends made a fool of the university in the online exams…
When I initiated a discussion about this with my friend, his reply was, “Regardless of the tools we use for online evaluation, it’s a myth. Students cheat, they use malpractices, even parents help students. Online teaching-learning may be possible up to some extent, but the online evaluation is not possible at all!” I happened to attend a few resourceful webinars about online assessment. Presenters discussed various ways and tools for online assessment, but when we see the practical applicability of these tools with our students, we face various issues, and we put the blame on online assessment. But is it really so?
To check this, we need to see the status of assessment and teaching-learning in the pre-COVID era. We cannot say confidently that the assessment structure in the pre-COVID era was flawless. There was a lack of harmony in our ideologies and in our practices. We had teachers teaching the topic keeping in mind the probable questions and weightage of the topic in the exam, we had copying and cheating issues. The measure of success according to society was not the knowledge or skills but the ranks and marks. When we look at the educational journey of any student, it was more like the hurdles race where the hurdles represent the annual exams. Students used to study only to crack the exam and not for the joy of learning or for the use of learning in our life. For us, an assessment was not merely a part of teaching-learning, but it was like a benchmark. Every stakeholder was focused only on the assessment part and not the actual learning.
The scenario changed suddenly when we faced COVID-19. Since the question paper pattern changed and there was scope for malpractices, the value of teaching-learning suddenly diminished and so did the value of the grades. We had COVID batch jokes floating all around the internet implying that there was no learning as the assessment was not that effective.
But I believe that this crisis is forcing us to address the elephant in the room: the issues about assessment. This is a good time to reflect on the nature and value we associated with assessment and we need to find ways to convey the society that assessment is not the ultimate goal but it is a part of the process.
When we think in this way, we realize that the problems we face in the online assessment are hardly because of the limitations of the tools and mostly because of the mindset everyone has towards assessment. In other words, the crisis we are currently facing in assessment is forcing us to address the elephant in the room: the issues in the overall assessment system and the myths associated with it. In this aspect, online assessment is serving as a mythbuster.
- Suyog Dixit