Pro: Proctoring extensions are necessary to maintain integrity of online exams.
A rise in cheating amidst online testing has increased by 800% during the height of the pandemic from April to June last year in comparison to during January to March the same year according to The Washington Post. Sitting down for an exam is a common sight for students around the world, however, during the pandemic, many schools were forced to close and moved to online distance learning, and with it so did the exams as cheating began to skyrocket.
As schools remain closed, online assessments have increased, and so has the use of online proctoring tools to maintain the integrity of exams. Services such as lockdown browser or Blocksi are being used by teachers to monitor their students during an examination. The use of these proctoring services provides security and convenience during testing and continues to be necessary during online examinations.
These services protect the integrity of exams and ultimately, deters the amount of students attempting to cheat. Using proctoring services provides a level playing field that has been jeopardized since the increase of online examinations. According to Radford University Economics Professor Seife Dendir and Geospatial Science Professor R. Stockton Maxwell found that using some form of direct proctoring is the most effective way of deterring cheating during high-stakes online assessments. The findings of the study suggest that cheating was taking place in the unsupervised exams. The authors of the new study found that the number of questions posted on the site in five different science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines increased by 196.25% from April to August of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. However, when conducting bivariate analyses, they found that there was a significant drop in average exam scores in both courses after online proctoring was introduced, in many cases by more than a letter grade. The study confirmed that online proctoring was the most viable strategy to maintain the integrity of exams.
The purpose of exams is to assess a student’s understanding of the material, using these services to monitor both the student and their computer activity is another precaution to deter students from the temptation of cheating. According to co-author of a study published in the spring by the Journal of the National College Testing Association Steve Saladin, if one student has a pattern with cheating, it will become a problem for that student, but if many start to cheat it will start to devalue the course they’re taking, suggesting that society will blindly accept whatever means necessary to meet an end goal. Shouldn’t we value the process of learning for the sake of learning rather than the end goal of a grade or the completion of the course? Online proctoring will catch more of those who are cheating and deter others from attempting to cheat. This will allow students to utilize exams for what they were meant to do, which is to assess mastery of the content.
While many believe that these proctoring services are an invasion of privacy, haven’t we as students always been subjected to sacrificing some privacy in favor of maintaining the integrity of these exams? Are schools or testing sites doing that much more by using these services in comparison to a live proctor during in-person tests? Monitoring students during an exam in a classroom has always been the norm. In fact, according to Dendir, online proctoring is just one more step toward creating a level of equivalence between traditional face-to-face courses and could help establish some sense of normalcy.
It is necessary to use proctoring services for a fair educational environment and to maintain some semblance of prestige. We have been walking a fine line between the rights of privacy and honesty, but the rights of privacy could be meaningless if they encourage disorder, dishonesty which is a disservice to our country.
Brianna is a senior and executive editor for El Vaquero. This is her third year on staff.
Con: Proctoring extensions invade the student’s privacy and add additional stress.
Big Brother is in your classroom, tracing your IP address and monitoring your every move, right down to the hesitation in your pupils. Since the transition to online learning, students have been taking tests at home. In order to ensure that students are not cheating, some teachers have required students to download proctoring extensions onto their devices to ensure that no student is cheating, but the methods used are akin to a dystopian novel where rights are violated for the “greater good”.
To ensure the integrity of exams, proctoring extensions use a variety of methods to ensure that students are not cheating, including tapping into students’ cameras, microphones and computer screens. However, these proctoring extensions are unfair to students because they are an invasion of students’ privacy while not giving them the option to refuse while adding unnecessary stress to the test-taking process.
Proctoring extensions should not be implemented because they violate students’ privacy. Some extensions like Blocksi allow teachers to monitor students’ screens during an exam to ensure academic integrity and productivity. This is on the route of violating the rulings of Robbins v. Lower Merion School District, where the school district was sued for secretly spying on students through school-issued devices. The rulings state that the school district should never look at a student’s file without their consent or unless there are reasons for suspicion. Screen monitoring could cause teachers to see personal information that was supposed to be kept confidential, and this is at a higher risk since most students use a personal device. Students should be allowed to protect their privacy, especially in an environment where their safety should be prioritized.
Students will always face stress and anxiety when it comes to tests. It is a natural process of school, but students should not have to feel the additional pressure of being constantly watched by teachers. One of the ways these proctoring extensions, like Proctorio that Irvine Valley College uses, ensures academic success by tracking students’ eye movements. This creates difficulties and anxiety for many students, as a video system analyzes students’ eyes for “suspicious behavior”. Irvine Virtual Academy uses Blocksi, which not only allows teachers to monitor students’ screens, but also the ability to control them to an extent. This pressure and constant feeling of being watched does not allow all students to perform their best, as they feel more stressed than they should. Tests have always been stressful, but why should students face the added pressure of being watched on top of that? Students should be respected enough to be given an adequate testing environment in order to perform their best.
While there must be a method to make sure students are not cheating, it should not be done with the sacrifice of students’ privacy. Recently, problems arose with the College Board regarding the Advanced Placement (AP) tests. The AP tests previously used a software that records students’ mouse and keyboard movements to ensure integrity, but the information could be sold to third parties like YouTube, Facebook, or Google. Even Blocksi sells information they’ve collected about students, which may contain locations or sites that students’ have accessed. This is every parents’ worst nightmare: their kids are being watched through their screens, and who can they trust? Students should not have to sacrifice their privacy for their education. These extensions are well-intentioned, but risk the safety and security of students.
Students’ privacy should not be sacrificed for a test score. The proctoring extensions do not help create a safe and constructive learning environment, but instead, contribute to additional stress and anxiety. Teachers should not have access to our personal devices to watch us at any time. Instead, schools should prioritize students’ privacy and wellbeing over test results.
Vy is a junior and second-year staff writer for El Vaquero.