Students say remote proctoring of exams via their webcams is creepy

Students taking examinations during the coronavirus lockdown say they are being subjected to remote proctoring via their webcams, and it’s creeping them out …

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Proctoring in conventional exams is straightforward: someone wanders up and down the lanes of tables making sure that no-one is cheating. They just need to be on the lookout for cribsheets and use of digital devices like phones, smartwatches, and earpieces.

Taking an exam from home obviously creates much more opportunity for cheating, and proctoring has to be beefed up to take account of that. It’s done on a one-to-one basis, and includes surveillance of both the candidate’s webcam and their computer, something students say feels creepy.

The Verge has a detailed report.

Sharath told Hayes to share his screen, and then to display both sides of his driver’s license in the webcam’s view. “I need to see your desk and workspace,” the proctor said. “Please rotate your webcam 360 degrees so I can see the area around you.” Hayes complied. “Please take a step back and show me the entire desk,” the proctor instructed. Again, Hayes obeyed […]

Hayes was instructed to grant the proctor remote access to his computer. “Please open your system preferences and click on the lock icon,” the proctor said monotonically. “Please enter your computer password. Perfect. Thank you.”

The proctor entered a password, using Hayes’ computer, and the test — taken online through Examity’s portal — began. Sharath watched Hayes work, through his webcam, the entire time […]

“Every student I know finds this the creepiest thing ever,” Hayes says. On his campus, he finds, “the predominant feeling towards Examity is ‘Screw this.’” […]

Students who have used Examity say it feels much weirder than proctoring with a professor or TA. They’re being watched closer up, by a stranger, and in a place more private than a classroom. In speaking to me, students described their experiences as everything from “uncomfortable” to “intrusive” to “sketchy.” “It’s basically like having someone standing over your shoulder staring at your screen the whole time,” Takashi says.

It’s easy to see both sides of this one. There are countless ways someone could cheat when taking an exam at home. At the most basic level, they could have someone else take the exam for them. Another obvious approach is to hook up a second monitor in mirror mode to allow someone else to see the questions and then feed though the answers via instant messaging. The possibilities are extensive.

At the same time, I’d have to agree that one-to-one surveillance of this kind feels incredibly intrusive. I’m someone who can’t write with someone looking over my shoulder, and effectively a proctor is doing that the whole time.

What are your own views on remote proctoring? An invasion of privacy, or necessary precaution? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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