The use of online proctoring methods has attracted a great deal of criticism for nearly a year now, mostly because of a perceived lack of privacy. Many students hate being recorded and monitored during their exams.

Erasmus University Rotterdam is going one step further than that. In addition to their webcams, EUR wants students to use the cameras on their phones. In this way, the university hopes to combat a novel way of cheating during exams, Erasmus Magazine wrote in January.

What about students’ privacy concerns?

You can’t just do that, said the Party for the Animals (PvdD), which strongly opposed the use of ‘monitoring software’ during exams right from the start. The party asked the education minister to force the Erasmus University to stop using the ‘monitoring software’.

Judging from her answer to the question, the Minister does not intend to go that far. However, she is calling on universities and universities of applied sciences not to overuse the two-camera set-up, and not to opt for this method unless it is ‘strictly necessary’.

The PvdD had a few more questions, though, because what about students’ privacy concerns? In reply, the Minister stated that EUR is complying with applicable regulations. In addition, the university’s Executive Board has promised that a two-camera set-up will not be used in cases where an alternative assessment method is available, and students who strongly object to online proctoring are always welcome to sit a different type of exam on campus.

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Increased risk from virus

What it all boils down to is that, as far as the Minister is concerned, it is up to Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences themselves to decide how best to combat cheating. Furthermore, tertiary education institutions are already using alternative assessment methods where possible, such as open-book examinations and assignments to be submitted. However, with some courses, such alternatives are simply not an option.

Moreover, the Minister stated in her letter, online proctoring may actually benefit some students – say, students who are self-isolating at home, or who are at increased risk from coronavirus. Elite athletes or students who give care to others may also benefit from online proctoring after the pandemic, in Van Engelshoven’s opinion.