Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?
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. Proctorio, which operates as a browser plug-in, can detect whether your gaze is pointed at the camera; it tracks how often you look away from the screen, how much you type, and how often you move the mouse. At the end of the exam, the professor receives a report on each student’s over-all “suspicion score,” along with a list of moments, marked for an instructor to review, when the software judged that cheating might have occurred.
Meanwhile, Proctorio is also monitoring the room around you for unauthorized faces or forbidden materials. 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. against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal 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.
When we first spoke, last November, he told me that, in seven exams he’d taken using Proctorio, he had never once been let into a test on his first attempt. Like many test-takers of color, Yemi-Ese, who is Black, has spent the past three semesters using software that reliably struggles to locate his face. “That’s hard when you’re actively trying not to look away, which could make it look like you’re cheating.” “I have a light beaming into my eyes for the entire exam,” he said.
Adding sources of light seems to help, but it comes with consequences. Despite these preparations, “I know that I’m going to have to try a couple times before the camera recognizes me,” he said. Now, whenever he sits down to take an exam using Proctorio, he turns on every light in his bedroom, and positions a ring light behind his computer so that it shines directly into his eyes. Other anecdotes call attention to the biases that are built into proctoring programs.
In video calls with live proctors from ProctorU, test-takers have been forced to remove bonnets and other non-religious hair coverings—a policy that has prompted online pushback from Black women in particular—and students accessing Wi-Fi in public libraries have been ordered to take off protective masks. Students with dark skin described the software’s failure to discern their faces. that may bear a previous name.