According to the Executive Board, the main reason why EUR should adopt a second camera is that a new hack has come to light that allows students to cheat during exams that are only proctored via webcam. During the meeting with the University Council, Rector Frank van der Duijn Schouten defended this measure by arguing that it was necessary to safeguard the values assigned to EUR diplomas. “There’s a strong chance that a year from now, people will ask us whether we were aware of the simple hack that could be used to bypass single-camera proctoring. At which point we’d have to say, ‘Yes’. And the next question would obviously be: So, what did you do about it? If we were to answer that we knew about the problem but hadn’t taken any further measures, we’d end up in a situation where our university’s diplomas could be called into doubt.”
The rector emphasised that the second camera ‘isn’t intended to hassle students’. According to Van der Duijn Schouten, a recent pilot project at two faculties showed that while the two-camera system comes with issues of its own, it can still be done. “We haven’t received any signals that this system harms the students in any way.”
The rector did promise that EUR will show considerable restraint when it comes to implementing this measure. “For example, Erasmus School of Law has decided to postpone its introduction for two weeks, until 14 February. Initially, the faculty planned to proctor two examinations with over 1,000 participants. The faculty administrators weren’t sure whether this step was acceptable. Now ESL has two weeks’ time to carefully instruct the students and consequently reduce the stress factor.” Van der Duijn Schouten announced that the Board plans to at any rate use the extra camera for proctoring for the next two months.
Can Delft diplomas be discounted?
Responding to the rector’s comment that the second camera ‘does not harm the students’, one student member said that he personally took exception to this statement. “When you hear students’ reactions to this measure and see how many students have signed open letters, it obviously does affect the students. I’m sure there’s no intention to hassle students, but that’s beside the point. There are alternatives – open-book exams, for instance. There’s very little risk of fraud in that case: I’ve googled it and couldn’t find any methods. And in Delft and Leiden, they’ve decided against using a second camera. Some universities abroad don’t even use proctoring.”
Another council member wondered out loud whether the Executive Board also believed that diplomas issued by Delft and Leiden can be discounted due to their eschewal of a second camera. “We make our own assessment,” was the rector’s response. “On top of which, we are faced with circumstances specific to our university. Some of our examinations are on a very large scale, for example – with over 1,000 participants. A lot of universities don’t have that sort of thing.”
The last word on the second camera, which will make its official debut during a number of exams this Thursday (there were some pilots before), has not yet been spoken. The University Council has invited the Executive Board to a new – probably private – meeting to continue discussing this controversial topic, although they have not yet set a date. Individual council members aren’t ruling out further steps – including legal measures– in response to the Board’s decision.
Questions and answers regarding the use of a second camera during proctored exams
Last week, the Chair of EUR’s Executive Board Ed Brinksma appeared on EM TV to explain why it had become necessary to use a second camera for proctoring. The university took this step after learning of a simple hack that could be used to circumvent the single-camera system. Four questions and answers regarding the hack and the new two-camera system.
How does this hack work exactly?
EUR spokesperson: “It isn’t a hack in a literal sense. They’ve discovered a new form of possible fraud that cannot be detected when remote proctoring relies solely on a webcam. A second camera allows us to get a more complete picture of the examination setting. This new opportunity for examinees to cheat was pointed out to the university in mid-December.”
To which extent does the university know whether or not students have already abused this new hack?
“We currently haven’t heard of any cases where students engaged in this particular fraud, but the university naturally wants to nip it in the bud. The tricky thing with this form of cheating is that it isn’t picked up on by the proctoring software, making it difficult to prove.”
Was the decision to use a second camera on the explicit instruction of EUR’s supplier ProctorExam?
“No, this isn’t the case. EUR has asked ProctorExam to think along regarding which steps we could take to prevent this form of cheating. The option of adding a second camera during exams is part of ProctorExam’s standard service range. This was selected as the best option available to us in consultation with the privacy watchdog.”
To which extent will the second camera serve as a back-up for the computer’s webcam? In other words: say one of the two cameras isn’t working for the moment, could the other camera be used to provide proof that the examinee hasn’t cheated?”
“Yes, some students feel reassured by the idea that there’s always another camera to fall back on if the first one were to drop out. In addition, we can already see that the second camera makes it a lot easier to determine what a student is up to exactly. Incidentally, the Examination Board always has the final say on whether or not a student cheated during an exam.”