Should Students Be Monitored When Taking Online Tests?

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Should Students Be Monitored When Taking Online Tests?

In “Keeping Online Testing Honest? Or an Orwellian Overreach?,” Shawn Hubler writes about universities trying to ensure academic integrity in online testing:

In an April survey by Educause, a nonprofit organization focused on technology and education, 77 percent of 312 institutions polled said they were administering, or planning to administer, take-home tests online with some sort of remote monitoring, ranging from human surveillance via webcams to software that lets a test temporarily take over a student’s browser.

It is not only students who are cringing at the online monitoring.

“There has to be a better way,” said Sue Escobar, a professor of criminal justice at California State University, Sacramento. Ms. Escobar said she would not use the webcam option the university added last month to its online testing software, finding it “invasive.”

“Sure, we want to minimize cheating, but how far do you go?”

Academic integrity is not a new concern in remote learning. In surveys, about one in three students say they have cheated in online tests — about the same as the proportion who admit to cheating offline.

For nearly two decades, Respondus, an educational technology firm in Redmond, Wash., has been marketing a customized browser that prevents test-takers from seeking answers in a new tab while their exam is in progress. As online instruction and web access have expanded, the online proctoring market has become more crowded.

Companies like ProctorU in Birmingham, Ala., and Examity in Newton, Mass., now offer remote oversight by live proctors who watch students take tests via Skype and webcams. Proctorio in Scottsdale, Ariz., uses artificial intelligence to monitor and flag body language and background noise that might point to cheating.

The article continues:

Social media has exploded with complaints and workarounds for cheaters. The University of California, Berkeley banned online exam proctoring, concerned that poor and rural students lacked sufficient access to high-speed connections and compatible laptops. Meggan Levitt, the assistant vice provost for technology at University of California, Davis, said the school was set to expand its live proctoring deal with Examity when the coronavirus shut down the company’s India facilities.

Others simply report being annoyed and intimidated by the sense, even in the Zoom era, that they are being spied on. Thera Boonyamarn, a 20-year-old U.C.L.A. student who flew home to Thailand when her campus closed, said that every time she sneezed into a Kleenex because of allergies, the testing software would “flag” her for seeming to look away while holding what appeared to be paper.

“It’s creepy,” said Hailey Arzaga, a 22-year-old psychology and criminology major at Cal Poly Pomona who worried about what the webcam would reveal as she took a recent quiz on qualitative research methods. “Like, we have you on video and audio and we’ll record you if you screw up.”

Mr. McFarland of ProctorU acknowledged that the live surveillance “is something to get used to.” But the proctoring services say they do not sell students’ data to third parties and that they purge it after it is sent to the school unless a cheating investigation requires that they preserve it.

ProctorU drafted and posted a Student Bill of Rights after the privacy concerns at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At the University of California’s campuses where proctors are being used, faculty generally have assured students that alternate arrangements can be made for those concerned about proctors.

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Have you taken any tests since transitioning to remote learning? Did you feel tempted to look up answers online or in your notes, or to compare your work with your friends’ answers?

  • Do you think students should be trusted to complete remote tests without cheating? Why?

  • Is it ethical for teachers or outside proctors to be able to see students on video or to monitor their computer screens while they are taking tests? Why or why not?

  • Has the coronavirus pandemic changed how you view testing? We asked students if they think schools should change how they grade students during the pandemic. Do you think the pandemic should change how schools use testing to evaluate academic progress?


Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.