With the increasing reliance on remote learning, online proctoring services have mushroomed. While these services seem like a good idea on the surface, there are several pitfalls that can cause test takers serious harm. Students have been posting about their experiences, and regional news sources and other outlets have picked up their stories. As the backlash grows, the national media is increasingly taking note.
How They Work
We've written extensively about some of the biggest names in online proctoring. For more detailed info on each, see our posts on:
Generally, though, they all work about the same. They all use artificial intelligence software to identify suspected incidents of cheating. The software does this by recording the microphone, camera, and desktop of the test taker's computer. The software “flag[s] students for any ‘abnormal’ head movement, mouse movement, eye wandering, computer window resizing, tab opening, scrolling, clicking, typing, and copies and pastes.”
Who's Speaking Out
While students have been protesting these invasive online proctoring companies from the beginning, others are also speaking up, which likely caught the Times' attention. Some teachers have taken their students' concerns to heart and are standing up to these companies. A veteran teacher and founder of Hybrid Pedagogy, an academic journal, Jesse Stommel has been public in his debates with the head of Proctorio, one of the largest remote testing companies. State lawmakers in New York have spoken out about the “profound lack of decency” found in this kind of testing. Even the Federal government is asking questions. According to Vox.com, “Several US senators have also recently written to the companies producing these tools to request more information about privacy, bias, and accessibility concerns raised by their tools.”
Why the Rage
Students, teachers, and lawmakers are enraged at the trauma these tests are causing test-takers. Test-takers have to keep hands, face, and desk contents in view of the camera at all times. They have to show the camera the entire room and everything they will have on their desk. In Ontario, Wilfrid Laurier University requires student going to the bathroom to “shout into the microphone: ‘I need to go to the washroom and will come back quickly.'” Some tests don't allow even that. One student sitting for the New York Bar exam reported urinating in a metal pot while sitting at their desk because they couldn't leave the camera's frame. And they aren't the only ones.
The rage only grows when company officials like Nici Sandberg, spokesperson for ExamSoft, respond with tone-deaf and heartless comments. She commented that students know “the format and parameters of the exams well ahead of time” and that leaving camera-view would still be an “integrity breach.” The Post sums up all of this by asking, “Is stopping a few cheaters worth the price of treating every student like a fraud?”
If you're accused as a “fraud” or of any other academic misconduct, there a few things you should and should not do:
- Don't try to defend yourself; let Joe Lento take care of that
- Do find out exactly what's alleged
- Do get copies of the evidence
- Do find out what the institutional policy is for academic misconduct, specifically online misconduct
- Do find out what testing software was used, what level, and what features were enabled