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Keeping Online Testing Honest? Or an Orwellian Overreach?


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Privacy advocates are concerned about the use of proctoring software to deter cheating on online exams.

In an April survey by Educause, 77% of 312 institutions polled said they were administering, or planning to administer, take-home tests online with some sort of remote monitoring.

Credit: Shutterstock

As Daniel Farzannekou prepared to take an online exam late last month in his naval science elective at the University of California, Los Angeles, the software directed him to pick up his laptop and scan his room, his desk, his ID and his face.

"Ridiculous," Mr. Farzannekou, a 20-year-old history major, fumed. He grabbed a notepad from his girlfriend, scribbled a two-word profanity in black ink and pointedly held it up to the webcam. Then he uninstalled the digital proctor software and fired off an email to his professor. The monitoring system was like something out of "communist Russia," he wrote, demanding a less Orwellian test.

As a semester like no other winds down for college students, with bedrooms replacing classrooms as testing sites amid the coronavirus pandemic, professors accustomed to classrooms are no longer able to keep a close eye on test takers, looking for cheat sheets and wandering eyes.

Into the havoc have come digital proctoring services, which, after years in tech's niches, are suddenly monitoring hundreds of thousands of students taking millions of at-home exams from far-flung homes in myriad time zones.

Privacy advocates are sounding alarms. Investors are taking note. And students are fueling demand with their own testing — of boundaries.

 

From The New York Times
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