The decision to start using a two-camera set-up was made just before the Christmas break, says Stella Verbrugge, the head of the Student Administration. After several months’ worth of discussions, signals of a new way to cheat in proctored online exams were the deciding factor. “We have not received any reports of cheating”, Verbrugge explained. However, the university did hear about a method to cheat the proctoring software and have notes on screen. The first camera, the webcam, only shows the student sitting the exam. The second camera must show the monitor the student is working on, which will prevent students from applying the new cheating method.

Not in a hurry

Verbrugge and her colleagues began establishing a two-camera set-up last week. They are now working on instructions for students and an online information page. The first exam involving a two-camera set-up was administered before Christmas, but many students will not have their first such exam for several more weeks. The university really isn’t in a hurry, says Verbrugge. “At the start of the pandemic we rushed through many things, which had the benefit of enabling us to ensure that our classes could still take place. Now we wish to take a good, hard look at what time would best suit the departments. We want to implement this in the right way.”

The deans of education were divided on the issue, dean of education Jason Pridmore stated earlier this week at the faculty council meeting of the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication. Some were very much in favour of the solution, while others strongly opposed it. He himself does not really care either way. If students want to cheat, they will find a way to do so, he said at the online meeting.

Students’ reactions

Students responded to the new requirement on Instagram. Many students were not yet aware that they would be required to use a two-camera set-up and were quite shocked. They said they were concerned about increased stress levels, the lack of privacy (“What if the proctor is a pervert?” “I really don’t like the idea of filming my bedroom for a stranger’s benefit”) and whether the software would be able to handle a two-camera set-up. “Great. Now I can lose 20 rather than 15 minutes due to technical failure,” another student wrote sarcastically.

However, not all students seem to mind the introduction of a two-camera set-up in proctored online exams. For instance, there was one reply from a student whose exam was rejected a while ago due to technical problems. She hopes the second camera can prevent exam marks from being declared invalid.

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Hard decision

Verbrugge says that the university is aware of the criticisms and students’ concerns. The two-camera set-up was first discussed back in September. “But what else can we do?” she asks. “We also have a lot of students who are afraid to sit in-person exams. And we don’t want students with Covid symptoms to come to campus, either. We wish to serve both groups, and we often find that students decide to sit the exam on campus, or to refrain from sitting the exam on campus, at the last minute. Applications [for permission to sit the exam on campus] will trickle in in the wee hours.”

Several pilot studies involving a two-camera set-up have been conducted, and Verbrugge says they were successful.

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