Manipal Institute of Technology students have raised concerns over the decision to conduct online sessionals and end-semester exams for undergraduate students in the college.
An online petition started by anonymous students has garnered over 1,500 signatures so far, and it asks the university to provide alternatives for students who don't wish to opt for online exams, and don't wish to face repercussions due to it.
Manipal Institute of Technology has already held quizzes online over the past week and plans to hold its sessionals in June, again online. The end semester examinations planned in July are also slated to be held online.
Manipal Institute of Technology, a part of Manipal Academy of Higher Education, is based in Manipal, a town in Karnataka's Udupi district. The college attracts thousands of students from across the country for its engineering courses.
The students were forced to cut short their semester and return to their homes in March following the nationwide lockdown imposed due to the outbreak of coronavirus cases. The students were then asked to attend online classes and appear for quizzes in May before their second sessional was scheduled to be held online in June.
Some students are now questioning the need for holding online examinations now and point to the fact that there are students living with the realities of staying in containment zones. "We want the college administration to know some of our concerns and they should not brush aside concerns of mental health and well being. Some of my friends are living in red zones and containment areas in Mumbai but no considerations have been announced for any student," says a student who wished to remain anonymous.
The students pointed to network issues and in some cases, the inability to step out and buy stationary items. Some students also highlighted that they left their notes and study materials in their hostel rooms in Manipal expecting that they would return to the college for writing exams.
The examinations in Manipal University's Jaipur and Sikkim campuses have not been announced and it is only in Manipal that the exams are being held.
In response to the students' concerns, the college administration stated that that more than 95% of its students took part in the quizzes and online classes held this month, a sign that the online mode is not hindering many students. The college administration also says that they will be given the option to take the exam in Manipal after they return to the classrooms.
"We have given them an option that once they can write exams once they come back to the campus. These online exams are not mandatory," says Narayan Sabhahit, Registrar of Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) says.
"If any student is unable to appear for the end semester examination for genuine reasons, he/she will be provided an opportunity to write the end semester exam without any penalty aller restoration of near normalcy and when the constituent institutions of MAHE reopen," reads a statement issued by the university.
However, students say that even though the exams are not mandatory, it will hinder them if they do not opt to take them now. "Since I am a 3rd year student, if I do not take the online exam now, I will have to retake the exams along with my seventh semester exams which is when I will be having my placements," says a student of the college who did not wish to be named
The college administration says that in this case, it is advisable to take up the exams online now instead of postponing it. "We have told students that during placements, companies expect the results of the sixth semester. Those who decide to take the physical exam later, we don't know when it will be held. We have told students that it is better to take the online examination," Narayan Sabhahit says.
The college administration further says that it is not necessary for students to be connected to the internet throughout the exam.
"Students would need internet connection only to download the question paper and to upload the answers. The encrypted question paper can be downloaded much in advance of the commencement of the examination. The question paper viewing can only be enabled just before the start of exam through an OTP sent to students registered mobile number," reads a statement issued by the university. It also indicates that the university will reopen for students in August.