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Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?

It compares your rate of activity to a class average that the software calculates as the exam unfolds, flagging you if you deviate too much from the norm. At the end of the exam, the professor receives a report on each student’s over-all „suspicion score,“ along with a list of moments, marked for an instructor to review, when the software judged that cheating might have occurred. Meanwhile, Proctorio is also monitoring the room around you for unauthorized faces or forbidden materials.

Proctorio, which operates as a browser plug-in, can detect whether your gaze is pointed at the camera; it tracks how often you look away from the screen, how much you type, and how often you move the mouse. „After I figured out nothing was going to change, I guess I got numb to it,“ he said. Yemi-Ese’s grades dropped precipitously early in the pandemic, a problem he attributed in large part to Proctorio. Still, test he managed to raise his grades back to pre-pandemic levels, even in classes that required Proctorio.

(The situation, in addition to its other challenges, deprived him of his usual light setup.) By the end of his senior year, Yemi-Ese was still struggling to get admitted to every Proctorio exam. He took several tests while displaced from his home by the winter storm that devastated Texas in February, which forced him to crash with a series of friends. Meanwhile, rising vaccination rates and schools’ plans to reopen in the fall might seem to obviate the need for proctoring software.

But some universities „have signed multi-year contracts that opened the door to proctoring in a way that they won’t just be able to pull themselves out of,“ Jesse Stommel, a researcher who studies education technology and the editor of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, said. Several institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, McGill, and the University of California, Berkeley, have either banned proctoring technology or strongly discouraged its use.

„They have committed to paying for these services for a long time, and, once you’ve made a decision like that, you rationalize using the software.“ (Several universities previously listed as customers on Proctorio’s Web site told me that they planned to reassess their use of proctoring software, but none had made determinations to end their contracts.) (Harvard urged faculty to move toward open-book exams during the pandemic; if professors felt the need to monitor students, the university suggested observing them in Zoom breakout rooms.) Since last summer, several prominent universities that had signed contracts with Proctorio, including the University of Washington and Baylor University, have announced decisions either to cancel or not to renew those contracts.

On December 3rd, six U.S. against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data. More recently, several students in Illinois have sued their institutions for using the software, alleging that it violates their rights under a state law that protects the privacy of residents’ biometric data.

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