Written by Justin Culetu
One of the many consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been ongoing lockdowns keeping students away from in-person learning. In order to make sure students receive some kind of education during these times, schools have moved to an online learning environment, but this method has not proven to live up to in-person instruction
The sudden transition to online education required many schools to come up with ways to monitor the integrity of their student’s work, as the possibilities of cheating during an exam are exponentially higher in an online environment.
However, some college students have had problems arise with faulty and unfair anti-cheating software required for their classes. Multiple San Diego State University students have reported false accusations of cheating being brought upon them by a program called Respondus LockDown Browser. Similar claims have been made regarding other anti-cheating software like Honorlock, ProctorU, and Proctorio.
Students are also forced to accept the surveillance done by these companies that have falsely detected cheating and in some cases leading to contention over what is considered cheating or not.
From facial expression detection to tracking keyboard and mouse movement activity, the Respondus software monitors every aspect of the test taker’s environment to the point where privacy is nonexistent. One SDSU student reported the excessive measures taken by these companies during exam proctoring which include recording the entire room, the whole desk where the test is being taken, the area under the desk that exposes the student’s crotch to the camera, and using a mirror to show no material on the keyboard. Not only does this process invade the privacy of the students, but it adds unnecessary stressors to the already stressful task of college test-taking. On top of that, if one minor suspicion is detected by the software, the student is given a zero on the assignment with no questions asked, even if it is a mistake on the AI’s part. One example of this, which was detailed by a student, is the WiFi cutting out for a short period of time during the exam. Even the slightest bit of background noise that is picked up by the AI is subject to a grade of zero, as stated by another student. Respondus also holds access to the data collected during the student’s test.
With the already stressful environment the lockdowns have created for college students, privacy issues and faulty technology that these proctoring companies impose on the students is just another example of the failures of online learning. College administrators fell short in understanding the needs of their students during these times and were forced to rush into partnerships with online proctoring companies before fully understanding their terms on privacy. With this in mind, schools must reopen soon if the administrators want their students to live up to their full potential in their academic careers.