Dr. Vidya Shankar Shetty, Director, REVA University

Dr. Vidya Shetty has a through and through career experience in Academics and Education ranging from K12 to Higher Education. Her career map has had her play diverse roles right from establishment to governance, ranging from setting up new schools in India and abroad, colleges, compliance and project handling of a greenfield University to her current role of Director at REVA University wherein she plays a crucial role in handling the Chancellor’s office and the portfolio of International Relations to place REVA University in the global education market.

Currently, the Director at REVA University, Dr. Vidya Shetty started her career as a Lecturer at St Agnes College, Mangalore, moved on to Bangalore after marriage, furthering her career with the Presidency Group with who she set up Schools, Colleges and a University periodically. She was also the Director for Manipal K-12 Education, setting up Schools countrywide and abroad. She was also the Director-Education at PEARSON K-12, India, the largest Education company in the world, wherein she set up 40 Institutions in India and Nepal. Her International exposure in Education was as Chief Academic Officer for Dr. B R Shetty group in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, wherein she set up schools for the Group and in Qatar and Saudi Arabia wherein she was on the Advisory Board for Schools and responsible for compliance and Performance Standards. Self-motivated with strong planning, organizational and leadership skills, Dr. Vidya has to be conscientious, systematic and analytical in her approach to Education and believes in skill centered learning in Education

 

Universities across the world are worried about Examinations and assessments along with students who are anxious about what would happen to the hard work of years, and series of assessments taken up by them only to secure a place in this world through the industry of their choice. Destiny has taken a cruel turn for the student of this year, as he faces the wrath of nature with inflicted injuries on academic performance.  The future remains bleak and students who are already placed with the industry are at the edge, not knowing where their further path is.  The UGC has assured of guidelines to be released shortly and decisions would shortly be taken by all Universities after in house deliberation.  Where progressive Universities have gone ahead and completed classes online, students have their grouses and grievances ranging from accessibility to comprehension.  And after having completed this learning, assessments have to tailgate and hence the teacher reaches a deadlock situation, till authorities give clearances on the way forward.

Why assessments?  The answer to this goes well beyond a simple statement that says, to assess the learning of the learner.  Apart from it being a progress check, we fail to realize that throughout the semester we have spoken in high pitches of the pedagogy employed by us but failed to make note that we have not indulged in assessing the learning outcomes periodically.  Had this been in place and documentation and verification apart from validation from the student; we could have probably crossed this worst deluge. As has been customary we have all waited for the end of the year to assess the entire year/term learning through a major chunk of pen and paper assessment.  The comprehensive continuous evaluation has somewhere been lost or not given great weighting to by the learner or the teacher.  The system was convenient when we looked at the final assessment added to the internals or ongoing prescribed tests.  For the learner, these assessments are a reflection of their understanding and intelligibility apart from the scores being an alert to the direction in which the transcripts were headed.  For the teacher, apart from having achieved the learning objectives, these assessments are also a time to introspect and a time for performance appraisal.  Where the learner awaits with trepidation, the transcripts as certification, and testimonial to his learning capability, the industry looks at the final certifications and scores as the testimonial for the performance of the recruit for the company.  The benefits of these assessments thus are very many and exams are high stakes for all the stakeholders as they determine the next step for everybody concerned.  

As educators, we seem to have fairly fielded the COVID battle with remote instruction wherever possible.  But the key challenge that lies ahead is on managing examinations and timetabled assessments for the learners.  We are aware that these exams are high stakes for the students, for their progression to a higher level is exam dependant, their certification and transcripts leading to their degree is exam dependant and this final decision would make them a graduate, qualified for the world.  Judgment and fairness play critical roles here, for a high performer and the lazy learner needs to be treated judiciously.  A simple pass or fail would demotivate one while the other could still take the benefit of the doubt.  A quick, insensitive decision would thus jeopardize the future of the student.  

Rescheduling and postponement of exams is the easy way out but the question of time still lingers.  Would the industry wait for the final transcripts and go by just the skill sets of the students hired?  Could progression be considered based on the historical data of the candidate?  Assuming, that postponing and rescheduling exams is an easy option, how do we answer geographical proximity of students, will they be safe traveling, would social distancing be honored at the otherwise large exam halls, and if staggered and stretched dates looked at, would it solve problems?  The next quick option is to look at online assessments or follow a hybrid system of assessment, change the weighting given, and also change the pattern of assessment.  Where portfolio-based assessments are possible, consider them for the final grading or look at rubric based assignments that can be worked on and turned in as group work or individual assignments.  For online assessments and to tackle the challenges of remote area students, could we identify test centers?  If yes, would we able to take a quick check on the health and safety measures adopted by these centers.  Rescheduling exams is also an option.  Cascading effects of rescheduling the exams are to be borne in mind. Ultimately we have to validate student learning and justify what we do 

A two-pronged approach to assessments is thus essential at this point.  For students who are in their final year and for those who are already absorbed by the industry or secured a seat for higher studies, ensuring decisions are quickly arrived at to soothe their concerns is a priority.  An alternative approach to testing their learning, online, or rescheduled is a priority.  Their transcripts have to be made available to them as quickly as possible.  Most of the final year curriculum is dependant heavily on projects and seminars and submissions of assignments and essays.  This can be worked around and wherever practical components are to be assessed, alternate ways of arriving at the score worked on.  

The second approach is to be focussed on the lower semester students where alternate methods of assessment are a must and should be adopted rather than await rescheduled dates or online assessment alone.  If need be their transcripts have to be endorsed separately so that there are no queries raised on their transcripts in the later years.  Differentiating these transcripts is important.  And if the University chooses to ignore scores and marks and goes on to simply issue a Pass or a Fail, then identifying these transcripts differently is a must.  This way we will not do injustice to any of the students…the high performer or the slack learner.  Giving students another chance to take their exams, as set apart from the usual policy in the semesters to come could also be an added consideration.  Overall a detriment policy needs to be well thought of and documented. 

An alternative approach to conducting these exams could be reducing the weighting of the final or end term exam alone, modifying the test format, project/seminar/group work-based assignment, reducing the length of the exam, testing only those items which are essential for the learning progress of the student.  Our ultimate goal here should be to ensure that these students’ placement is not affected nor is their progression and learning continuous post-COVID too. 

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