ProctorTrack and Online Cheating

One of many similar services, ProctorTrack offers remote proctoring solutions for institutions seeking to administer tests online with integrity. As the convenience, and even necessity, of online education grow, so does the number of companies providing services in this part of the economy's education sector. Online proctoring companies also appeal to traditional schools and institutions by promoting the cost savings that come from doing away with maintaining real estate and personnel to conduct in-person testing. The appeal to both traditional and non-traditional (distance learning/remote) students is the ability to take a test anytime, anywhere.

ProctorTrack boasts “over 2.5 million identity verification and monitoring sessions delivered.” ProctorTrack is used by many colleges and universities, including top-tier schools like Rutgers and more accessible schools such as Florida's Broward College Online. ProctorTrack also markets its platform to K-12 schools and corporations.

Four levels of service are offered to ProctorTrack customers:

  • Level 1, ProctorLock: The cheapest offering, Proctorlock is a software-only option that verifies the test-taker's identity and records the test session. Typically, identity verification consists only of comparing the face on the webcam with a previous baseline photo and a photo ID. ProctorTrack also enables a knuckle scan for biometric identification and a room if an instructor chooses those options. When it is recording, ProctorTrack keeps webcam video and computer microphone audio from the test session, along with snapshots of the computer screen itself. It also disables the student from accessing any other websites except those specifically approved by an instructor for use during a test.
  • Level 2, ProctorAuto: While ProctorTrack does not disclose the exact features this level adds to Level 1, the main addition is called “automated data analysis.” The company's artificial intelligence (AI) analyzes the data recorded during the test to detect 6 “unique testing violations” on top of the 11 detected by Level 1.
  • Level 3, ProctorTrack QA: This level adds a human review of the AI results before the testing report is published for instructor review.
  • Level 4, ProctorLive AI: This final and most expensive level finally adds “live remote human proctors” during the test. The remote proctor works in tandem with the AI to detect cheating on the spot and make corrections in real-time.
  • Proctor Checkpoint: This is an add-on feature for any of the above levels that features a remote human being conducting identity verification and the room scan live.

The Catch

Of course, advertising that a test can be taken “anywhere” is a bit misleading. Home might not be the silent, pristine environment ProctorTrack demands of students. Not all students are lucky enough to have a quiet, private space all to themselves. One institution that uses ProctorTrack notes that the ProctorTrack system will flag audio of “loud footprints from a student’s upstairs neighbour.” The same institution notes that “a student’s daughter asking about dinner” will be flagged as an extra person violation. So, where else to go? When schools are closed, empty classrooms and libraries are not an option. A public library is only an option when it's open, and even then, there will be people and voices in the background, setting off the ProctorTrack software for possible reports of cheating. In such a public setting, a test-taker would be as clueless as the reviewer about the cause of random noises or the identity of every person that walks into the webcam's field of view.

Complicating matters, online test-takers have created innovative means to cheat these systems, just as they have for in-person testing. ProctorTrack freely admits its services are only capable of ramping up the level of difficulty of cheating,” implicitly acknowledging that committed cheaters can defeat its system. The Level 1 solution, ProctorLock, is advertised as only a “deterrent,” keeping only the honest students honest.

Even without cheating as a factor, ProctorTrack admits its AI is imperfect. Level 3, the “most popular” solution, claims “99.5% Accuracy,” which means sometimes it's wrong. Given that Level 3 costs more, how much more inaccurate is the cheaper Level 2? How does ProctorTrack measure accuracy? Does this just mean that ProctorTrack employees manually reviewing the AI results only clear flagged events 0.5% of the time? Taken by itself and without further explanation, administrators and instructors might be led to think ProctorTrack catches 99.5% of cheaters. This could lead to false confidence in ProctorTrack, less-than-vigorous reviews of ProctorTrack reports, and false accusations of innocent students.

Words to the Wise

If you are accused of cheating during a ProctorTrack examination, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Know the situation: Instead of making statements, ask questions. The accused will likely feel the need to defend themselves and want to offer an immediate explanation of activity flagged as suspicious. It's best not to say anything at all, even in mitigation. Instead, find out everything you can about the accusation.

Know the platform: Find out which proctoring platform the school is using. Like most online proctoring services, ProctorTrack claims it is “Fully integrated with: Moodle; Blackboard; Canvas,” and other learning management systems (LMS). The suspicious activity report that administrators receive comes from ProctorTrack, not the LMS. Once you know which platform you are dealing with, it is important which service the institution paid for: is it the cheapest Level 1, software only, solution, or the live proctor-plus-AI of Level 4, or something in between?

Know the evidence: The level of service defines how much information school administrators may have. Additionally, the kinds and amount of information supplied to administrators by ProctorTrack depend on how the instructors configured the exam, if they even bothered to do so. For example, ProctorTrack's default settings only include Face Scan and Photo ID Scan; the instructor has to take extra steps to activate the Room Scan and Knuckle Scan features. More concerning, an instructor can set “distinct parameters” for “individual students.” This functionality may have been intended to accommodate test-takers with special needs, but it's easy to see how it could be used to favor the teacher's pet or discriminate against a student on the “naughty” list.

Know your rights: As the accused, the student has the right to know the evidence against them and be provided a copy. Likewise, the student has the right to due process. What that due process entails varies by school, but should at a minimum, include a hearing where the accused can offer a defense.

Know where to get help: An attorney-advisor can be an invaluable help in this process. While the short term consequences may seem low, a cheating charge can stain a student's record for years, or longer, affecting other academic endeavors, college acceptance, and future employment.

Armed with this knowledge, you may stand a fighting chance. Having Joseph D. Lento in your corner will ensure a fair process and avid defense. The stakes are high--call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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