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OP-ED: Which is better: Online or paper-based?

  • Published at 06:37 pm September 14th, 2021
pec exams

With schools opening up again, questions about exams are coming up

The ravaging effects of the coronavirus have shaken the very foundations of nearly every sector of our economy. Nevertheless, whilst businesses may be going back to normal, schools, colleges, and universities continue to encounter the worst of the virus still.

Consequently, education centres have been busy trying to provide online alternatives and continue children’s education. What is surprising, however, is that a debate has been building up between paper-based exams and online exams. Apparently, to some people, the process of giving online exams seems like an unfair advantage. 

Coronavirus has changed the conventional way of giving closed-book, invigilated exams to open-book tests that may be submitted in an online platform, using additional time and help from family and friends. This seems terribly unfair, as students who gave paper-based exams had to pass the arduous process of strict examinations, and also bear the stress of not remembering enough. 

On the other hand, those who gave exams online have argued that they were better off with the previous methods because now they have tons of issues relating to the internet, something they did not have to worry about before.

No matter how many arguments have been put forward, the grass always seems greener on the other side. I feel that we all should comprehend the problems of both paper-based and online exams, because each system has its own deficiencies. 

The first problem of an online exam is that many students are unfamiliar with the computerized process, and now have to submit a word file rather than a bundle of papers. Those who cannot type are unable to finish their answers as quickly as they would like to, and are being forced to learn a new skill in a short period of time. This has led to great discomfort for many students, and many others are suffering from “screen fatigue.” 

Another problem with online education is that this mode of testing has led to an upsurge in the number of assignments. As a result, candidates are being subjected to much more pressure compared to those who did classes on campus. This adds to the overall stress.

However, the reason why the debate between these two kinds of students arose in the first place is because of the emphasis on memorization. Students giving paper-based exams are arguing that they had to memorize tons of pages, whereas many online students are merely right-clicking “cut” and “paste” on their exam sheets. I am sure there are sincere students, but why do we prioritize memorization in the first place?

This issue became all too noticeable to me when I was co-hosting a webinar last week for students appearing for their exams online; the most popular, or perhaps, the only question they had was: “Can I copy?” My question to these students is, why should you rely on copying when creating something could be much easier?

Perhaps to increase creativity, plagiarism tools are being used nowadays and those who copy without acknowledging others’ work can face serious and sometimes legal consequences. Examples of these consequences include expulsion from the university, demotion in case of faculty members, and so on.

The problems of those who gave paper-based exams not only include the pressure of time management, but also issues like ensuring legible handwriting, losing pages, maintaining word count, and so on. 

I don’t think there is any way to choose which system is easier or who is more privileged because, as discussed above, both systems have their problems and advantages. There is no reason why we should believe that the grass is greener on the other side. Rather, we should try and learn from each other about the various aspects of the education system, and become smarter versions of ourselves.           

Anusha Islam Raha is an LLM graduate and a reviewer of the International and Comparative Law Journal.

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