A way forward on proctored exams without a second camera
Recently, our university decided to implement the use of a second camera for all…
So far, only laptops’ webcams have been used in proctored exams taken from home to monitor whether students were complying with the rules and not cheating. Although there were no signs that this method was being abused at EUR, the rules will be tightened, as the university has recently learned of a method allowing students to bypass the proctoring software and consult a cheat sheet on screen. It wants students to start using a second camera, i.e. the camera in their phones, which must be installed behind them, so as to prevent them from using this method.
This second camera will have a view of a different part of the students’ rooms, and it will moreover make exams more prone to technical problems. All the student representatives on the University Council asked in an open letter whether the advantages outweigh these disadvantages. The councillors are concerned about the ‘stress and discomfort’ the second camera may cause students to experience. “Online proctoring should be a last resort,” says University Council member Wouter van Dam. “But we are not quite sure how often it is being used. There are many alternatives out there, such as open-book examinations, or essays rather than exams. How are these various options weighed? We’d like to hear more about that from the Executive Board.”
On top of the student councillors’ request for information, econometrics student Robbert Rog and council member Younes Assou submitted an open letter to the Executive Board, which was signed by 786 students. Rog stated that he had heard many students express concerns about the two-camera set-up, and had therefore decided to write a letter outlining the various concerns. For instance, technical problems may ensue, because certain phones are not supported. Moreover, the proctoring software does not work if your phone’s camera is broken. And on top of that, a second video stream will put your Internet connection (which is prone to disconnecting even in a one-camera set-up) under even greater strain, causing all sorts of issues.
In addition, Rog expressed privacy-related concerns. He feels that ProctorExam’s mobile app requests permission to access too many things. Many mobile phones contain a great deal of privacy-sensitive data, and some students dislike the idea of allowing ProctorExam to browse their data. Moreover, the two-camera set-up allows students’ entire rooms to be seen, meaning that there is no longer any room in the rooms to hide things from view. And on top of that, there was a data breach at Groningen University a while ago, allowing external parties to view the images.
There are various practical concerns, as well. Phones must be on a charger at all times to prevent their batteries from being depleted during the exam, and not all student bedsits have enough room behind the desk where a second camera can be installed.
The final concern Rog raised was the fact that international students don’t always live in a house where online proctoring works well. And if they are currently abroad, they cannot come to the campus to sit their exams, either.
On Friday, the Partij voor de Dieren political party, which campaigns for increased animal welfare and animal rights, presented the Minister for Tertiary Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven, with several questions. The party asked the minister to stop EUR from introducing the two-camera set-up.