Spring semester of 2019 marks the first time that teachers will be recording students taking online tests– while students are in their homes.
Proctorio, the controversial online software being adopted by Las Positas, has sparked protest from students and faculty alike. “At the very least I think it makes students feels uncomfortable and that it might not be the best way of preventing cheating because there might be other reasons why they might be looking in different. directions and so forth,” psychology instructor, Robin Roy said. The technology has many feeling invaded and it raises questions about the validity of online education– as well as the methods used to bolster its legitimacy.
According to Geography teacher Thomas Orf, Las Positas College has chosen to adopt the program to stop students from using the internet or other sources to cheat on tests for their online classes. Angela Vasquez, a student and executive officer of Las Positas College Student Government (LPCSG), was one of many that didn’t feel satisfied with this response. “We’ve talked about it a few times (in) our meetings and a lot of us… are completely against it.”
Proctorio is described as a “remote proctoring tool” on the Las Positas website that also “(records) you and the room you are in via your web cam, recording your web browsing during an exam, locking down your web browser, and disabling printing.”
When taking tests or quizzes in Canvas, the software records students through their device’s camera to prevent cheating. Faculty can choose which features they would like to track. If eye movement or other activity is considered suspicious, the recording is flagged.
“It’s not right,” said Vasquez, “Why am I being watched when I, in my private space, want to take this quiz?”
“I’ve asked around,” said Trevor Kracke, one of LPCSG’s senators, “Having someone watch you while you take a class is a big problem for some of these students.”
Vasquez also said that a program like this is something the students should have a say in, and yet LPCSG was not notified of its implementation until recently, and the fact that teachers using it have made it mandatory for their students seems to further the students lack of choice.
“Personally, it feels weird, like me being a girl… it just makes me feel uncomfortable,” Vasquez said. She feels that there are other methods to restrict cheating if this is the reason why Las Positas has started using this program.
Vasquez and Kracke spoke about the fears of the program itself, not just with the privacy invasion, but also what it does with the computer it’s downloaded on.
To abate these fears, Mike Olsen, the CEO of the Proctorio company, clarified that the school decides exactly what the program does, from locking down your browser to taking control of your camera. He also stated that Proctorio doesn’t seize control of your computer at all, but instead uses your browser’s native functionality to create a secure exam environment.
Orf clarified what teachers can do on their end of the program, taking experience from what he did last semester during its test phase. The video Proctorio takes is in fact a recording, not a live video-feed, that Proctorio’s algorithm observes, and then flags if cheating is suspected, which the teacher can then observe, and they decide if the student cheated or not. He equated it to being like the VeriCite program, which scans written essays for plagiarism when students turn it in on Canvas.
“This is the same way,” Orf said, “Only if it sees something based on what parameters I put on it, and even then it’s gonna say, ‘this is what we found, it occured at a certain time, do you want to watch this?’”
And in the case cheating is suspected by the teacher, the student will then be called in to take a written version of the test, and the difference in score is then used to determine whether cheating has occurred.
“Most students, 95 plus percent of the students do not cheat, we know that, but there are a handful, who we have caught, who have bucked the system,” Orf said, saying that cheating is the very reason the program is being introduced in the first place. An example of said cheating being a student failing an in person class, then taking an online class and suddenly passing with flying colors. Considering that it can be incredibly difficult to catch cheating for an online course, the school decided that Protorio would be the best program to ensure honest learning.
There is some resistance to the introduction to this program, but there seems to be little the students can do about it. Several online classes have already started to use it this semester, making it mandatory for all students in those classes to use it. SG is currently forming a committee which will focus on dealing with Proctorio and its future implementations at Las Positas.