Open book Tests: The Way Ahead or The Way Down

“Open book Tests: The Way Ahead or The Way Down”

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be one of the largest interference in the education systems across the globe. With 1.6 billion learners affected across the world, more than 190 countries have seen its impact. Closure of schools as well as the adoption to an online education system impacted about 94% of the whole student population in the world.

The education disruption had to be avoided with the innovations and by moving ahead with time. Keeping aside the fiscal working of the institutes, one thing that no institute wanted to compromise on was the quality of education given to the students. Holding examinations under such circumstances in a normal manner was not possible. However, with new measures in place, a lot of methods have been tried and tested to ensure that imparting education goes on in the best way possible. One such associated and discussed topic largely is the ‘open book examination’.

While this concept has been used for class assessments since quite a long time, it has come to light again. A lot of decision makers are contemplating adopting ‘open book examinations’. Recently, an esteemed institute in Delhi- Jamia Milia conducted open book examinations and they succeeded in the same without any technical glitches. But, open book examinations are not just about technical glitches. There are a lot more aspects to this. Here is shedding some more light on it...

Understanding Open Book Examinations | Much like the term ‘open book examinations’ implies; it refers to exams where students can keep their books open during the assessment. On the digital front, these students get their question papers- but they can refer to the study material and upload the answers within two hours. This span may change based on the guidelines decided by the concerned institute, but more or less, this is the structure followed.

A lot of schools use this for class assessments, and it is also used in the law field. But, for other fields- it is not heard of. This idea does sound radical since we are used to a conventional examination. But, it can align with teaching programs that appreciate more than just rote knowledge and are willing to offer questions that help in motivating creative thinking.

What Works, What Doesn't | To understand this concept better, we need to analyze both- pros and cons of the situation. When we first see the merits of an open book examination, the first thought that comes to our mind is how well have students grasped dissemination of knowledge. The primary aim of educational institutes is to ensure that their students grasp whatever is taught to them. When a clock is put on the evaluation, students need to go back and understand all that is taught to them and refer to the right curriculum. In either case, it can be ensured that they have absorbed the concepts taught to them well.

Additionally, there are other benefits to open book examinations. Firstly, it saves paper and in times like these where everything has turned digital; it does help in carrying out education with minimal involvement of the staff. As exams cannot be conducted with people sitting in the same institute, the feasibility of the whole situation needs to be reevaluated. In such times, dedicating staff that can look at every student while giving the exam and ensuring the authenticity.

On the other hand, the cons of ‘open book examinations’ cannot be ignored either. Online scams, referring to additional material apart from just the prescribed one - is also quite possible. Additionally, the stress can be reduced on students, but it can go overboard and students can start taking examinations very lightly too. It can also encourage rote culture and most students can easily copy from chits and take unwarranted liberties.

A Need For The Current Circumstances | Open Book Tests can bring about a lax attitude in students. While the sincere bunch would continue to grasp the theories to the best of their ability, there is always a chance that some students start taking assessments a lot more lightly. The one way to tackle this problem would be to come up with questions that are not direct in nature. This way, students can use their books for reference but not solely rely on the curriculum for curating their answers. It helps in reducing the pressure but also ensures that the intellect of the students is stimulated well. So, it is definitely a required move in these times to go on with assessments; but at the same time, an unconventional approach to how we look at ‘open book examinations’ is required.

While open book examinations cannot be favored during normal times, these circumstances definitely call for a move like this. We also feel that it is crucial to have a system for evaluation which stretches just beyond examinations. An educational institute should comprise a robust structure which is made up of internal and external evaluation that truly gives students a chance to prove their mettle. The best of leaders are not necessarily well equipped with bookish theories and have a lot of other skills that make them efficient. So, while open book examinations can be adopted in the current circumstances, making it a norm can deviate students from explaining their understanding and their viewpoints in a coherent manner.

Author -- Abdul Nasir Shaikh