Will Onscreen Marking(OSM)/e-Marking be successful in Indian Scenario? – PART I

Mar 5, 2017

Before jumping to answer the above question, let me explain the Indian context of what is happening in the examination evaluation process. As we all know, conducting examinations and publishing results ‘in time’ is the most important and the primary responsibility of any University or School Board. Invariably in the Indian context both the above things will not happen in time. Initially the examination which has to happen in time will get postponed due to various reasons beyond the control of Universities and Boards and finally, the Publishing of results are delayed, which is a crucial thing and deciding factor for Student’s future especially to get admissions for higher studies and for getting jobs. Though I am not talking about the first problem in this write up, let me briefly share with you my thoughts on the solution proposed for addressing the second problem, “Publishing results in time”.


In the Indian context, of course the heads of Universities and Boards have always been taking steps to ensure that results are getting published in time and onscreen marking (OSM) is chosen as one of the important stepping stone to avert the delay in results publications. The advantages that is cited for the implementation of onscreen marking (OSM) or e-marking are as follows:

  1. No Transit Delays – As everything is digital, there is no transfer of paper from one place to another.
  2. Reduction of Costs due to avoiding Postal/Courier Transactions of Papers.
  3. Increased security – Student ID masking is easier to implement.
  4. Elimination of Paper totally after the preliminary scanning.
  5. Multiple review is possible to avoid the examiner/evaluator idiosyncrasies and mistakes during evaluation.
  6. No Clerical errors, especially summing the marks applying the rubrics.
  7. Fast turnaround time – Overall productivity is increased.
  8. Centralized evaluation can be avoided – It has been observed that getting people in one place from different locations is always a challenge for the university or Boards.

But knowing the disadvantages and facts with respect to Indian context will make us think twice before going on OnScreen/E-Marking. They are:

  • Cost of OSM implementation is very high. The savings that you have by avoiding postages/courier charges are negligible compared to the infrastructure required to implement. Critics say it is only an initial implementation costs that we have to bear. I strongly disagree with that fact. Every year the university or Boards has to ensure that the infrastructure are kept intact and maintained. Even if the maintenance is given to third party there will be high service cost which University or School has to bear through the contract.
  • Experienced evaluators are not computer savvy. They prefer to evaluate in the traditional manual way than through e-way. To support this fact we can find that most of the Universities and Schools in India has formed between 1960’s and 1980’s. The senior and experienced people who are there in those Universities and Schools will always find it difficult to accept the electronic evaluation. Moreover they are not used to sitting in front of the computers for long hours. Most of them will complain of eye problems or headaches.  Result is that they will do e-evaluations rather forcefully which will affect the quality.  The only way to overcome this trouble is to engage youngsters in the system at the cost of compromising again quality for at least some more years.
  • Evaluator idiosyncrasies will always be there in the e-marking. The possible way to avoid this to engage multiple evaluators (at least >3) marking the same sheet. In the Indian context this is very difficult especially because Universities are always trying to discuss the reduction of evaluators’ remunerations by decreasing their numbers. This will be a big challenge to address which is again resulting in compromising the quality of the answer sheet.
  • Scanning efforts – the entire paper need to be scanned by employing people. Firstly this results in additional cost, secondly security is always a question.
  • Onscreen Marking requires good internet and stable electricity. Both these are questionable in the Indian context. Even in cities, we face rampant power cuts and internet issues, so no need to discuss about remote locations. Advocating generator backups for the centralized correction is one way to solve this problem. But that again results in huge costs incurred for this solution.

OSM or E-Marking is a good solution, no doubts, but how far Indian Universities and school Boards are ready to go for it, is the question which needs to be answered before choosing the right solution. OSM is not a perfect answer to solve our examination related issues at least for another few years. We need to think of alternate solutions which is more user friendly as well as practical in Indian situations. Orion’s LICR (Live Ink Character Recognition) solution is one such alternative. I will be discussing about OLICR in detail in the next part of this series. In my viewpoint the first and foremost thing to change is, the syllabi that is chosen for the academics to how the examinations are conducted. At least in the coming years we need to focus more on pre-examination processes and examination processes and automate it completely on priority.

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