Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?Meanwhile, rising vaccination rates and schools’ plans to reopen in the fall might seem to obviate the need for proctoring software. “They have committed to paying for these services for a long time, and, once you’ve made a decision like that, you rationalize using the software.” (Several universities previously listed as customers on Proctorio’s Web site told me that they planned to reassess their use of proctoring software, but none had made determinations to end their contracts.) (Harvard urged faculty to move toward open-book exams during the pandemic; if professors felt the need to monitor students, the university suggested observing them in Zoom breakout rooms.) Since last summer, several prominent universities that had signed contracts with Proctorio, including the University of Washington and Baylor University, have announced decisions either to cancel or not to renew those contracts.
But some universities “have signed multi-year contracts that opened the door to proctoring in a way that they won’t just be able to pull themselves out of,” Jesse Stommel, a researcher who studies education technology and the editor of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, said. Several institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, McGill, and the University of California, Berkeley, have either banned proctoring technology or strongly discouraged its use.
His dread of the software only increased after he was kicked out of an exam when a roommate dropped a pot in the kitchen, making a clang that rang through their apartment. (Proctorio says that its software does not expel users from exams for noise.) By the time his professor let him back into the test, he had lost a half hour and his heart was racing. Last spring, during a Zoom meeting with a professor, Yemi-Ese learned that the software had flagged him for moving too much.
“I feel like I can’t take a test in my natural state anymore, because they’re watching for all these movements, and what I think is natural they’re going to flag,” he told me. So I don’t know if it’s seeing things that aren’t there because of the pigment of my skin.” “I had to try to calm down,” he said. He feared that, if he showed physical signs of anxiety, Proctorio was “going to send the video to the professor and say that suspicious activity is going on.” The software, he said, “is just not accurate.
A former Division 1 football player, majoring in kinesiology, Yemi-Ese had never suffered from anxiety during tests. “Being in sports for as long as I was, and getting yelled at by coaches, I don’t get stressed much,” he said. Yemi-Ese turned on more lights and tilted his camera to catch his face at its most illuminated angle; it took several tries before the software approved him to begin. He was initially unconcerned when he learned that several of his classes, including a course in life-span development and another in exercise physiology, would be administering exams using Proctorio, a software program that monitors test-takers for possible signs of cheating.
The first time Yemi-Ese opened the application, positioning himself in front of his laptop for a photo, to confirm that his Webcam was working, Proctorio claimed that it could not detect a face in the image, and refused to let him into his exam.