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IIIT-H to conduct entire spring semester online


Hyderabad, April 23 2020 - Turning more student-friendly in view of the prevailing coronavirus induced lockdown, International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad (IIIT-H) has decided to conduct the spring 2020 semester entirely online.

It also decided to do away with formal final examinations and instead distribute its weightage to less stressful and more hands-on components like assignments, projects, quizzes, reports, etc.

IIIT-Hyderabad director Prof P.J. Narayanan said this strategy was adopted to conclude the semester quickly to remove the cloud of the lockdown and the weight of the semester's courses from the students' heads. He said this would allow graduating students not to worry unnecessarily about delays.

"Conducting long final exams is tricky if done online, considering the highly variable situations the students may find themselves in where they are. Evaluations based on more hands-on application of concepts will stress students less, though the work on the teachers may increase. Undesirable sharing is possible for such work, but we adopted it. It is good to not obsess excessively about every possible violation, as long as serious and hard-working students get their due," Narayanan said.

The institution has also decided to award a W (or Withdraw) grade in place of an F (or Fail) grade for courses. Both serve the same purpose as the student must meet the requirements later, said the institution. Students will be awarded only A, B, C, and W grades for courses, leaving out A-, B-, C-, and D grades.

He noted that the online classes commenced on March 23 and are held for nearly all courses, and attendance in them is around 80 per cent which is on par with the institute's normal average. The faculty members have adopted their teaching style to suit the online requirements.

"The institute used that week to test and train the faculty on the various technological solutions out there, Microsoft's cloud-based solutions for email and other services we had adopted earlier. That included a supported version of Teams, a tool suitable to run online classes. A big plus was the ability to record the classes including audio, video, slides, digital blackboards, etc. Students could access the video later even if they couldn't attend the live classes. Faculties were requested to keep notes and other study material on the LMS platform Moodle for students to access at will," he said

"We are aware that a small fraction of the students has poor to no access to online technologies. However, an overwhelming majority of the students are highly comfortable with technology and have adequate access."

The institute's academics team and tech-support team worked hard to train the faculty, who reciprocated enthusiastically.

"Students who could not take part meaningfully in the online phase of the courses due to poor connectivity, sickness to self or family etc will be evaluated separately whenever it is safe. A combination of alternate evaluation and grading methods will be employed for them with a combination of assignments, projects, oral examinations, reports, etc. They will not be disadvantaged in any manner by this," Prof. Narayanan said.

Stating that cooronavirus shocked and seriously disturbed everyone including the educational institutions, he noted that most of the institutions including IIIT-H could send the students back safely in the middle of March when the alarm of transmission was low enough.

"It was quite clear to us that the students weren't coming back for at least two months. Nearly all regions of the country need to be safe, and travel has to be safe before students return. Running the semester in an online mode was the only option, if it was feasible."

He is confident that the ongoing spring semester will be concluded completely by the end of May. The graduating B.Tech and M.Tech students will have their requirements completed practically on schedule.


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