As we continue to tackle the ongoing challenges of teaching remotely, one of the sticking points in some online classrooms is the use of AI proctoring solutions such as Proctorio to maintain academic integrity. While preventing cheating in online, closed-book tests is a challenge, students, faculty and technology experts have pointed to practical and ethical issues with this type of solution. Students on a number of campuses have objected to the use of this software and some universities, such as University of Illinois Champaign, University of British Columbia, and California Berkeley, have banned use of the tool.
What are the concerns?
Commonly cited concerns include:
- Privacy - The electronic surveillance of their homes and the encoding of location information can make some students feel vulnerable, and critics have questioned how secure the data collected is. Where does this data go? How long is it retained? Who has access to it?
- Anxiety - Test performance tends to go down as anxiety levels go up and for some students simply knowing they are being electronically scrutinized increases their anxiety level. Students may also worry that they will inadvertently do something (talk to themselves while taking an exam, for instance) that will flag them as cheaters.This creates a situation where the effort expended to catch cheaters actually penalizes some of the students acting in good faith.
- Technology Access: Proctoring solutions work on the assumption that all students have access to the technological tools needed to participate, including a stable wifi connection, a laptop or desktop computer, and and a working webcam (and a quiet space in which to work, free from activity that might set off flags in the system).
- Equity - Algorithm-driven proctoring solutions treat some students whose bodies do not conform to an ideal as inherently suspicious. The tool has had difficulty recognizing students with darker skin tones, for example, and the normal movements associated with certain motor neuron diseases can be read as suspicious behavior.
What Can I Do to Address These Concerns?
So given that there are legitimate concerns about the use of this software, how should we as instructors respond to them? As with so many pedagogical issues, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, we’d like to suggest a range of possible moves you can make:
- Review your use of Proctorio - Perhaps the settings (there are lots of options!) don’t need to be as stringent as the defaults. Apply an ethic of minimal invasiveness to your use of this tool. Consider not using a room scan before beginning the test to reduce privacy concerns. If you do use room scans before the exam, definitely do not interrupt an exam to do an additional room scan later in the exam period.
- Talk to your students - Make sure you have a clearly articulated policy as to what constitutes cheating. Talk to your students also about the importance of academic honesty. Research shows that a timely reminder urging academic honesty works! Reassure the students that any activity flagged by the algorithm as suspicious will be individually reviewed by you before any action is taken.
- Offer another assessment option - Many instructors already offer alternative assessments to students when they can’t be at a scheduled examination or when other exigencies arise. Consider making another assessment available to students who object to the use of online proctoring.
- Review the Proctorio report carefully - if you are using Proctorio simply as a deterrent but never reviewing the reports that the tool provides, you are misusing the tool and should look for a different method to manage assessments. Please review the reports carefully before making decisions about whether students are cheating in your class as students are often flagged for behavior that does not constitute cheating.
- Reexamine your assessment plan - In last year’s transition to emergency remote teaching, many instructors found the easiest path to success was to simply recreate their usual assessments in an online environment. Consider instead going back to your learning goals for your students and build assessments that take advantage of the online environment. Working online, students can do research-based tasks or demonstrate higher-order thinking skills beyond simple recall and procedural knowledge questions. Here are some resources to help you think about alternatives:
If you’d like further assistance with reevaluating the use of online proctoring in your course, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment with one of our educational technology or pedagogy specialists.
Hleziphi (Naomie) Nyanungo is the Director of Educational Technology and Jeff Rients is Senior Teaching & Learning Specialist at Temple's Center for the Advancement of Teaching.