ProctorU and Online Cheating

The rise in online learning has led to a corresponding increase in the use of online testing. The rudimentary remote testing of yesterday has been replaced with advanced, dedicated platforms boasting numerous innovations, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

One online testing platform at the forefront of these developments is ProtorU. ProctorU boasts industry leadership, citing two United States patents for its testing software, awarded in just two years. By its own account, ProctorU is twice as big as its next two competitors. ProctorU is currently used “by over 1,000 institutions in 129 countries” for “over 2,000,000 exams per year.” ProctorU gained even more notoriety when Google announced it had chosen ProctorU to administer the online proctoring of Google’s G suite certification.

Not Equal for All

While ProctorU says their mission is “to uphold the integrity of academic and professional testing” and “not to ‘catch cheaters,’” one of the top-line banners on the company's homepage says, “Deter. Detect. Prevent.” They may dress it up with fancy words, but the bottom line is still ‘catching cheaters.' However, it's important to understand how ProctorU goes about this. ProctorU is not a one-size-fits-all replacement for in-person testing or a school's own online testing process. The company offers four different online testing “solutions”:

  • record”: The cheapest option for schools, this solution is “software-only,” so nobody at ProctorU ever even sees your test.
  • record+ ”: The next step up, this option adds a “professional review” by a ProctorU employee of an event flagged by AI
  • review+ ”: This level adds live human interaction, but only before the test to make sure the student's desk is clear and to “launch” the assessment
  • live+ ”: The most expensive tier, this service includes real-time virtual monitoring by a human being at ProctorU for the entire assessment. It's worth noting that this is the only solution ProctorU endorses for programs “looking to prevent cheating.”

ProctorU claims its technology “crushes brick and mortar test centers,” but a traditional in-person test always includes live monitoring and human engagement. Only the most expensive ProctorU option comes anywhere close to the same level of involvement with the in-person test-taking. While online proctoring can provide flexibility in the time and place a test is taken, a virtual test center cannot provide the same support when a test-taker experiences difficulty, either personal or technical.

ProctorU makes it very clear to its clients, schools, and other institutions that it only flags suspicious exam sessions for the client. In the end, the institution that hired ProctorU makes the call on when to accuse a test-taker of cheating. In most cases, the school relies solely on what ProctorU has provided.

Enter the Humans

Having paid for the service, schools are not likely to disregard a cheating notification from ProctorU. Unfortunately, this also means that school administrators may not be as exhaustive in reviewing the “evidence” provided by ProctorU. These tendencies are exacerbated by the fact that only one of ProctorU's testing “solutions” includes full-time, active monitoring by a human being. Every other ProctorU solution only notifies the purchasing institution of suspected cheating after the fact. This means that no one observed a test-taker's behavior in real-time, or was present, even virtually, to ask about it. In the end, an accusation is most likely based on a ProctorU employee reviewing a video-recording, noting something unusual, followed by a school administrator reviewing the video.

At this point, the student enters the school's academic misconduct process. Though similar in many regards, every school's process is different, making it important to know the process in place for the student's school. ProctorU has itself drafted a “Student Bill of Rights for Remote and Digital Work” and supports its adoption by client institutions. ProctorU's Student Bill of Rights includes:

  • The right to answers about student's rights related to the test
  • The presumption of innocence
  • Compliance with all laws, federal and state, as well as local institution policies and any requirements imposed by higher accrediting bodies
  • The right to know and understand all academic policies and procedures
  • The right to know what data the institution collects, so you can know what the administration may be using as the basis for its allegations

ProctorU's clients are not required to adopt this Student Bill of Rights when they buy the service, but nearly all have policies for these matters. Even if they don't, the accused still deserves an opportunity to defend themselves.

Now What?

There are several vital steps to take and pitfalls to avoid if a student is accused of any type of academic misconduct, particularly cheating. First, do not admit to anything, even if it's only an explanation in defense. Initially, it's best not to respond at all. The best thing you can do is seek to understand the allegation and its basis. Make a written record of events as they actually happened, including dates and time, and write down what the administrators say happened. Keep a record of pertinent e-mail and texts, screenshots, possible witnesses, and anything else that might help your case. Review the institution's policies, noting disconnects with the allegations. Most importantly, contact an academic misconduct attorney-advisor.

An experienced advisor, Joseph D. Lento will ensure the best possible representation of the student to the administration. While an institution's administrators may move quickly to deal with an allegation, remember that a student is entitled to some amount of due process in nearly every case. The Lento Law Firm will hold administrators accountable for their conduct, ensuring the accused has their day and gets to tell their side of the story. Additionally, a too-speedy resolution may not allow for consideration of extenuating factors in a student's life, such as depression, illness, death of a friend or family member, medical procedures, abuse, victimization, serious injury, or other disability.

The Lento Law Firm can potentially negotiate with school administrators and leaders to ensure decision-makers consider all of a student's circumstances. And when mediation fails, Joseph D. Lento is the attorney that will fight for a student's rights. If you're on the wrong side of an academic misconduct violation, or even after a finding of responsibility or guilty verdict, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 as soon as possible.

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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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