Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?

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Meanwhile, rising vaccination rates and schools’ plans to reopen in the fall might seem to obviate the need for proctoring software. Several institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, McGill, and the University of California, Berkeley, have either banned proctoring technology or strongly discouraged its use. (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.

"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.) 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.

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. A letter of protest addressed to the CUNY administration has nearly thirty thousand signatures. The surge in online-proctoring services has launched a wave of complaints. Anti-online-proctoring Twitter accounts popped up, such as @Procteario and @ProcterrorU.

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.

Proctorio’s list of clients grew more than five hundred per cent, from four hundred in 2019 to twenty-five hundred in 2021, according to the company, and its software administered an estimated twenty-one million exams in 2020, compared with four million in 2019. (In a survey of college instructors conducted early in the pandemic, ninety-three per cent expressed concern that students would be more likely to cheat on online exams.) Some of these companies offer live proctoring underwritten by artificial intelligence.

These include ProctorU, which said, in December, that it had administered roughly four million exams in 2020 (up from 1.5 million in 2019), and Examity, which told Inside Higher Ed that its growth last spring exceeded pre-pandemic expectations by thirty-five per cent.


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