Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?The surge in online-proctoring services has launched a wave of complaints. One student tweeted, "professor just emailed me asking why i had the highest flag from proctorio. "Now proctorio has a video of me crying," the student wrote. Excuse me ma’am, I was having a full on breakdown mid test and kept pulling tissues." Another protested, "i was doing so well till i got an instagram notification on my laptop and i tried to x it out AND I GOT FUCKING KICKED OUT." A third described getting an urgent text from a parent in the middle of an exam and calling back—"on speaker phone so my prof would know I wasn’t cheating"—to find out that a family member had died.
Anti-online-proctoring Twitter accounts popped up, such as @Procteario and @ProcterrorU. A letter of protest addressed to the CUNY administration has nearly thirty thousand signatures. 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. On December 3rd, six U.S. senators sent letters to Proctorio, ProctorU, and ExamSoft, requesting information about "the steps that your company has taken to protect the civil rights of students," and proof that their programs securely guard the data they collect, "such as images of [a student’s] home, photos of their identification, and personal information regarding their disabilities." (Proctorio wrote a long letter in response, defending its practices.) On December 9th, the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center submitted a complaint to the attorney general of D.C.
against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data. When the coronavirus pandemic began, Femi Yemi-Ese, then a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, began attending class and taking exams remotely, from the apartment that he shared with roommates in the city. A former Division 1 football player, majoring in kinesiology, Yemi-Ese had never suffered from anxiety during tests.
Yemi-Ese turned on more lights and tilted his camera to catch his face at its most illuminated angle; it took several tries before the software approved him to begin. "Being in sports for as long as I was, and getting yelled at by coaches, I don’t get stressed much," he said. He was initially unconcerned when he learned that several of his classes, including a course in life-span development and another in exercise physiology, would be administering exams using Proctorio, a software program that monitors test-takers for possible signs of cheating.
The first time Yemi-Ese opened the application, positioning himself in front of his laptop for a photo, to confirm that his Webcam was working, Proctorio claimed that it could not detect a face in the image, and refused to let him into his exam. 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.