Last Thursday, on 28 January, I received an official warning from the ESHPM Examination Board regarding an online test I had sat two weeks earlier – an open book exam, that is. It appeared I had not performed the so-called ‘room scan’ prior to the exam, to show that my workplace was ‘free of unauthorised devices and materials’ that make it possible to commit fraud.
The letter said that the warning would be filed in a dossier, and when [not if] the Examination Board were to receive other notifications via ProctorExam, they would weigh in the fact that I had not followed the rules of online testing before: “If such is the case, the Examination Board might take sanctions. Because this is your first warning, there will be no sanctions for this test.”
That is, I am acquitted in this case, but the case conditions my future actions. It is reminiscent in many ways of getting a suspended sentence. The presumption of innocence does not seem to prevail for the Examination Board.
I was deeply shaken by the letter as I thought I had completed all steps prior to the exam. By gaining access to the exam room, one naturally assumes everything is in order. Just as is the case in Remindo, online payments, registration forms, or any other kind of online process where several steps are required before access to a service or product is granted. I could not remember anything about a room scan and got nervous about whether it would have consequences for the online exam I had sat two days before, where I had not done a room scan either.
My first reaction was to call a representative of the Examination Board and the study administration. I was subsequently told that the call would not be answered or even activated because all employees work from home. After several unsuccessful calls, I replied to the sender of the letter, also a representative of the Examination Board, who returned with an explanation: apparently, I had not paid enough attention to the text box with the exam instructions, where the link to the exam is. She acknowledged that the box is rather small for such important information but said they expect students to read it carefully. I am glad I did not discover that I had to perform a room scan two minutes before my exam. It would have meant additional stress and falling behind, and, as a result, a worse performance.
This because Erasmus University provides an online proctoring platform (with a score of 2.3 on Google, 2.9 on Trustpilot, and 1.3 on the App Store) that has too many malfunctions for it to be justifiable to use it. First, it lacks a simple setting that prevents one from proceeding to the exam room without having completed all steps. Secondly, several students have experienced constantly being asked via a popup window to share their screen, causing delay and stress to them (fortunately I’ve ‘only’ had this problem a few times).
Shouldn’t Erasmus University’s ‘Team Online Proctoring’ be aware of these problems by now? I am also tempted to ask if any of the employees at Erasmus University have tested ProctorExam themselves? This also applies to Remindo.
I was told that the university is currently working on a document for students with tips and tricks for online testing, as if there wasn’t enough with ProctorExam’s ‘General video instructions’, ‘General exam rules’, ‘Other questions’ and Erasmus University’s ‘demo video Online Proctoring’, instructions, and infographic. I call for a balancing that considers the wellbeing of the students. If this cannot be sufficiently ensured, other types of examination must be considered.
“I get that a warning like this does something to you, since you have worked hard. But it is ‘just’ a warning. It will not influence your grade. Your grade will still be published,” the representative of the Examination Board told me.
If you do not understand what it means to accuse people of crimes they have not committed, then you simply lack basic empathy. In her defence of the university’s action, she points out the importance of students getting a certificate that ‘has value and is not seen as a so-called corona degree which one got by doing some easy tests at home where one was able to use some sort of extra help every now and then from sources that are not allowed’.
In addition to showing strong distrust of the students, she associates corona with something easy, which is a great misunderstanding. It is just the opposite. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of students with symptoms of stress, anxiety, loneliness, or depression. I wonder if the university’s ‘DESTRESS study’ and ‘Student Wellbeing Monitor’ will come to the same conclusions.
I recognise that Erasmus University is challenged and that there may be initial difficulties. But at the present time there is no excuse for not ensuring proper exam conditions.
Anne-Marie Serena Andreasen (30) is a student Health Economics, Policy & Law (HEPL) and graduated from the master Public Health.