Online entrance exams to virtual interviews: How universities are gearing up for admissions season

Written by Neeti Nigam
| New Delhi |

Updated: April 16, 2020 5:08:43 pm


Online entrance exams to virtual interviews, how digital mode is going to be the new normal. Representational image/ gettyimages.in

With the academic cycle badly hit because of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent extension of the nation-wide lockdown until May 3, most of the government universities have either extended the date for accepting application for admission to undergraduate courses or have deferred the schedule for conducting entrance examinations.

Private universities, however, seem to be ready with a plan B. While public universities are struggling to catch-up with online teaching, private colleges are using technology to ensure their academic schedule does not suffer.

As the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) and state education boards have not yet announced dates for class 12 examination, experts believe that the admission process in private colleges could commence based on an expected score that will be calculated by accessing the year-long performance of the student.

Online exams, virtual interviews

The National Testing Agency that conducts engineering and medical entrance tests — JEE Main and NEET – has announced that the exam will be held by May-end. However, it is not yet clear as to how the exam will be held in case the government continues with the social distancing rule. Private universities, however, are providing provisional admission on the basis of “expected class 12 marks.”

“We give provisional admission before the commencement of the programme. However, when the students join the course, they should be in a position to meet the eligibility criteria,” said Dr Balwinder Shukla, vice-chancellor of Amity University in Noida which has received nearly 12,000 applications so far for various courses.

Similarly, for BTech programmes, Lovely Professional University has decided to take into consideration the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) Main January session score. “We conduct our own entrance test – NEST which has been postponed. Therefore, on the basis of JEE Main score, the counselling session will begin soon. However, once the lockdown is over, we will conduct our own entrance test. So, the aspirant will get another chance to compete for the seat,” said Rajeev Sobti, dean and head of admission division at Lovely Professional University.

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To overcome social distancing, varsities have planned to go for virtual interviews. “Keeping the current condition in mind, we have modified the selection process. So now, the admission is based on submission of video recording to the questions posed to the applicants. The students are asked questions to test English Language skill and subject-specific knowledge/aptitude,” said Shukla.

Some varsities are also mulling to conduct their entrance exam online if the lockdown extends further. To ensure there is no unfair means used during online tests, the universities are going high-tech. “We use software which helps us in tracking a student’s movement – like why he/she is taking too much time on one question or why their eyes are not focusing on the computer but are looking everywhere else,” said Sobti.

Session delayed, but manageable

Private institutes are not worried over the delay in starting the academic session as their classes either begin mid-July or in August. The universities believe by that time things will be settled down and if not, their faculty is preparing online lectures. Some universities have planned to divide the classes into batches. “We will divide the class into separate batches. So, if some students will be joining late then they can join a new batch,” said Rajiv Gupta, director admissions from Sharda University.

There are, however, concerns over medical courses in private universities as they have to follow the medical regulatory authority’s guidelines. “This comes in August and since the medical entrance test is further delayed, this means the session will be delayed too,” said Shukla.

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In some public universities like the Delhi University, there are certain technical issues that some teachers have flagged while conducting online classes. The university administration is yet to take a decision on conducting online exams for enrolled students. There have been reports of varsity’s application process going entirely online, however, a final decision on the same is yet to be announced. Last year, there were reports of error in their online admission process.

At the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the administration is conducting teacher training workshops in educating online. Considering several students do not have the bandwidth and infrastructure to access online education, the varsity is also considering alternative provisions. None of the public institutes, including the two mentioned above, have started their admission process yet.

Increase in scholarships, plans for virtual tours

A few varsities are planning to increase the scholarship amount. “Looking at the current scenario, we have planned to revise our scholarships up to 100 per cent on tuition fee this year,” said Gupta of Sharda University.

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To answer queries of concerned parents and students regarding the admission process, universities have hired more people in their call centres who are working from home. “Earlier more calls were made related to courses and its future. Now more than half are made to know about the admission process and also on whether the college is capable of providing quality education online,” said Sobti.

What if the student wants to see the campus before seeking admissions? “Our university has already uploaded a virtual tour on Youtube. Candidates can see what all facilities will be provided to them,” said Gupta.

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