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Best Practices

Best Practice I: Online Examination Management System

Objectives of the Practice

To develop and deploy an e-system to manage the entire student evaluation and related processes which will achieve the following:

      Facilitate easy and effective maintenance of and access to critical information with regard to the complete process of student evaluation including internal and external assessment.

      Maintain repositories of versions of syllabi.

      Easily generate nominal rolls and keep track of student results with respect to both internal and external assessment.

      Make the recording of Internal Assessment marks easier and consistent with the manual processes, with accountability being maintained online.

      Enable faculty to easily track student performance.

      Generate Result Sheets and Mark Sheets after examinations.

      Enable special services like reprinting of mark sheets in specific cases and archiving of historical data.

      Enable various levels of users of the system, including the CoE, Secretary, Principal, staff at the Office of the CoE, HoDs and teaching faculty to view, add or modify information only appropriate to their level of authority.

      Seamlessly maintain critical workflow processes online.

      Automatically calculate and present analytical information about student progress along with indicative information about social and economic background of the student, etc.

      Automatically analyze and present information on performance of students in subjects taught by a particular teacher, to serve as a feedback for the teacher herself. 

The Context

Initially, there were separate software packages to manage different processes in the examination system, leading to redundancies in data and difficulty in maintaining data consistency. 

Further, continuous internal assessment marks were prepared manually by all Department faculty members and submitted to the Controller of Examinations. There was a process of keying in these marks by the CoE’s office again, creating opportunities for manual errors. Thus, the workflow was split across applications and also between electronic and manual processes. 

The existing system did not account for versions of syllabi. As the system grew with new courses being added and updates to the technology infrastructure on campus, the need was felt to deploy a system that is easily accessible to all stakeholders in a consistent manner and comprehensively manages the entire examination process workflow. Further, since there were different repositories being maintained, there was no comprehensive way in which specific information regarding a student’s progress could be gathered from the system.

Third-party software application packages were found to be unsuitable for existing robust processes unique to the College, and hence the need of the hour was to design a system inhouse that would reflect the ethos of the College and would be comfortable for all to use.

A comprehensive web-based enterprise-wide application software package was incrementally designed, developed and deployed on campus, and the system was christened, “Adhyaksha”, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘supervisor’.

The Practice

The Controller of Examinations, the staff at the CoE’s office, the Secretary, the Principal, the HoDs of all Departments and all faculty members have access to the system through their individual logins. Individual logins provide each user access to the system that is appropriate to their level of authority.

The authority and responsibility of setting the nominal roll for every class for the semester vests with the HoD of each Department alone. Once the nominal rolls are set and submitted online, the faculty members gain access to the internal assessment marks. The system is designed to allow access to the internal assessment marks for a subject only to the particular teacher who teaches that subject for that semester and to the HoD of the Department offering the subject.  

The entire gamut of internal assessment marks for a subject, comprising various tests, assignments, internal examinations, etc. are keyed in regularly by the teacher. All calculations are done and displayed online by the system. Thus, the progress of a student can be checked at any time by the teacher and the HoD.

At the end of the semester, the students check their marks online and the HoD reviews the marks for each student for each subject offered by her Department, and submits it online to the CoE. After this process of submission, no changes may be made to the Continuous Internal Assessment (CIA) by the Departments. Also, the CoE cannot view the CIA online until and unless the HoD has submitted it.  

Neatly formatted print-outs of the Continuous Internal Assessment (CIA) are then generated by the CoE’s office and are duly checked and signed by the students. This eliminates intermediate use of paper during the process.

End-Semester Examination (ESE) marks are keyed into the system through an easy-to-use interface. This is done exclusively by the staff at the CoE’s office. The results are then calculated by the system and printed neatly.

Mark sheets are printed on the pre-printed sheets using this software. All calculations including CGPA, letter grades and classification are done by the software after checking if the student has completed all the requirements of the course. 

Printing of mark sheets can be done in bulk for an entire class or for an individual student. Reprinting of duplicate mark sheets is also provided for, for special cases.

Supplementary Examination nominal rolls are automatically generated by Adhyaksha - they  only have to be checked and submitted online by the HoD. Improvements in CIA and ESE results too are keyed in as described earlier, after which results and mark sheet printing takes place as already detailed.

Regular backups of this sensitive and crucial data are maintained in the central server system and through permanent magnetic tape backups. This ensures constant availability of the system and a robust disaster recovery mechanism.

Since Adhyaksha is a repository of all student-related details, mechanisms have also been built in to it to generate student progression analysis reports. This mechanism within Adhyaksha provides analytical information about student progress and also provides supporting information such as social and economic background of the student, whether or not she is a first generation learner, etc. All these features are utilized by the Academic Progress Monitoring System to enable the College to custom-tailor effective remedial measures to help students perform better.

Adhyaksha also gleans information from its data repository regarding the academic performance of students for subjects taught by specific teachers. This is used in the Faculty Performance Appraisal System to give feedback to teachers.

Evidence of success

Computerization has incredibly speeded up the entire process and minimizes human errors. Speedily publishing results has become easier than before.  

A comprehensive record of each student’s academic performance is centrally maintained in this way. Data redundancy and duplication errors have been eradicated.

All manual processes have been converted to electronic processes though the process workflows and levels of authority of people have been maintained in the system.

All calculations for CIA and results are automated, thus reducing the overheads and margin of error for the faculty and the CoE’s office.

The manual processes of CIA preparation and submission have been done away with, improving the efficiency of the process and making CIA error-free.

The data analysis services provided by Adhyaksha have provided the College with insights into student and faculty performance and thereby helped identify students who need additional support.

Problems Encountered and Resources required

Designing this comprehensive and large software system was a challenge for the development team and the College Management, for it encompassed scores of rules and exceptions. This was systematically dealt with through the adoption of robust design methodologies and a regular system of feedback from the users at the time of development itself.

Initial hesitation to adopt online systems was there among the faculty, but they soon overcame it because of the training and also because of the realization that the system was making life easier. Now all faculty members are comfortable with the system.

The College Management has always been a staunch believer in technology and makes every effort to provide the best in technology infrastructure to the faculty and students. This characteristic ensured the availability of all hardware and software resources required to design, deploy and manage such a vast and critical system online. Further, the commitment of the entire faculty community in the College to cooperate with the Management to keep modernizing and improving the system, has ensured the success of this initiative.

             

Best Practice II: Single-Teacher-School Programme

Objectives of the Practice

      To motivate rural children to pursue their education.

      To motivate parents of rural children to continue their child’s education so that dropouts are reduced.

      To sensitize the students of the College to the problems of rural children and the importance of educating them.

      To inculcate an appreciation in the students of the College for the opportunities they have that others do not.

The Context

Education remains a dream for thousands of children in our country. Swami Vivekananda said, “India lives in her villages and her salvation lies in their empowerment.” While the children in urban and semi-urban areas have easier access to education, the children in rural and extremely remote areas have absolutely no access to education due to lack of infrastructure. They tend to stay away from education due to other reasons as well, such as domestic compulsions to go for daily work and social discrimination. In this scenario it becomes imperative for the privileged among society to remove the hurdles that rural children face and to enable them to undergo a wholesome education and achieve a better quality of life.

The Practice

Swami Vivekananda Rural Development Society (SVRDS) runs Single Teacher Schools for students in the remote and backward villages in Tamil Nadu, aligning itself with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme of the Government of India. It is an exercise undertaken to reduce the dropout rate in schools and to also increase the enrolment rate. 

All students and faculty members of Meenakshi College visit about 60 Single Teacher Schools every year in the districts of Thiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Chengalpattu. About 60 buses are arranged by the College Management for these visits which have become exercises in large scale logistics management as well. There are about 140 teachers and 3000 students who take part in this exercise every year. 

Activities are planned for the students to ensure that they benefit from the interaction. The faculty and students take with them many useful gifts for the children like lunch boxes, seat mats and snacks, and also for the school teachers and the school itself. Enriching games and mini talent shows are organized and prizes are distributed to the school children to help them discover their talents and enthuse them.

This practice of the College is part of the fight against illiteracy and morbidity. The annual visits to the Single Teacher Schools expose students to the plight of rural children and kindle in them the spirit of service and sharing. The Meenakshi College fraternity interacts with the rural children, teaches them songs, organizes interesting games to entertain them, organizes talent shows among them and motivates them to take education seriously.

Evidence of success

The feedback from SVRDS is that the enrollment rate in these schools has gone up significantly ever since Meenakshi College started patronizing and visiting these schools three years ago. In fact every year, the College witnesses an increase in the number of children enrolled in the schools during the visit.

The children in the schools enjoy the interaction with their elder sisters from Meenakshi

College, and get enthused to pursue studies and make their dreams come true. Many are the children who express lofty ideals and superior ambitions to grow up and make a difference to the world around them.

The students and faculty of the College look forward to these visits that provide a peep-hole into the lives of our rural children and the conditions in which they live and study. There is deep sense of inner satisfaction that all faculty and students derive from these visits, for there is the feeling of having touched innocent lives in a positive way. These interactions also increase the sense of social commitment and an appreciation and gratitude for the privileged lives people lead in the cities. They give the opportunity for College students to be grateful for what they have and to give back to society as much as they can. 

Problems encountered and resources required

There have been no constraints or problems in implementing this practice. The College intends to only increase the frequency of these visits to the schools to improve the impact of the exercise.