Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?


Despite these test preparations, "I know that I’m going to have to try a couple times before the camera recognizes me," he said.

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Despite these preparations, "I know that I’m going to have to try a couple times before the camera recognizes me," he said. Adding sources of light seems to help, but it comes with consequences. Now, whenever he sits down to take an exam using Proctorio, he turns on every light in his bedroom, and positions a ring light behind his computer so that it shines directly into his eyes. When we first spoke, last November, he told me that, in seven exams he’d taken using Proctorio, he had never once been let into a test on his first attempt.

Like many test-takers of color, Yemi-Ese, who is Black, has spent the past three semesters using software that reliably struggles to locate his face. "That’s hard when you’re actively trying not to look away, which could make it look like you’re cheating." "I have a light beaming into my eyes for the entire exam," he said. More recently, several students in Illinois have sued their institutions for using the software, alleging that it violates their rights under a state law that protects the privacy of residents’ biometric data.

against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data. On December 3rd, six U.S. senators sent letters to Proctorio, ProctorU, and ExamSoft, requesting information about "the steps that your company has taken to protect the civil rights of students," and proof that their programs securely guard the data they collect, "such as images of [a student’s] home, photos of their identification, and personal information regarding their disabilities." (Proctorio wrote a long letter in response, defending its practices.) On December 9th, the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center submitted a complaint to the attorney general of D.C.

"After I figured out nothing was going to change, I guess I got numb to it," he said. Still, he managed to raise his grades back to pre-pandemic levels, even in classes that required Proctorio. (The situation, in addition to its other challenges, deprived him of his usual light setup.) By the end of his senior year, Yemi-Ese was still struggling to get admitted to every Proctorio exam. He took several tests while displaced from his home by the winter storm that devastated Texas in February, which forced him to crash with a series of friends.

Yemi-Ese’s grades dropped precipitously early in the pandemic, a problem he attributed in large part to Proctorio. The surge in online-proctoring services has launched a wave of complaints. Anti-online-proctoring Twitter accounts popped up, such as @Procteario and @ProcterrorU. A letter of protest addressed to the CUNY administration has nearly thirty thousand signatures. One student tweeted, "professor just emailed me asking why i had the highest flag from proctorio.

Excuse me ma’am, I was having a full on breakdown mid test and kept pulling tissues." Another protested, "i was doing so well till i got an instagram notification on my laptop and i tried to x it out AND I GOT FUCKING KICKED OUT." A third described getting an urgent text from a parent in the middle of an exam and calling back—"on speaker phone so my prof would know I wasn’t cheating"—to find out that a family member had died.

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