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Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?

Anti-online-proctoring Twitter accounts popped up, such as @Procteario and @ProcterrorU. One student tweeted, “professor just emailed me asking why i had the highest flag from proctorio. 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. 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.

“Now proctorio has a video of me crying,” the student wrote. (The situation, in addition to its other challenges, deprived him of his usual light setup.) By the end of his senior year, Yemi-Ese was still struggling to get admitted to every Proctorio exam. He took several tests while displaced from his home by the winter storm that devastated Texas in February, which forced him to crash with a series of friends. Still, he managed to raise his grades back to pre-pandemic levels, even in classes that required Proctorio.

Yemi-Ese’s grades dropped precipitously early in the pandemic, a problem he attributed in large part to Proctorio. “After I figured out nothing was going to change, I guess I got numb to it,” he said. Several institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, McGill, and the University of California, Berkeley, have either banned proctoring technology or strongly discouraged its use. “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.

Meanwhile, rising vaccination rates and schools’ plans to reopen in the fall might seem to obviate the need for proctoring software. (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.

against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data. 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.

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