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Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?
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. “Now proctorio has a video of me crying,” the student wrote.
One student tweeted, “professor just emailed me asking why i had the highest flag from proctorio. A letter of protest addressed to the CUNY administration has nearly thirty thousand signatures. The surge in online-proctoring services has launched a wave of complaints. Anti-online-proctoring Twitter accounts popped up, such as @Procteario and @ProcterrorU. (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.
“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. Last spring, during a Zoom meeting with a professor, Yemi-Ese learned that the software had flagged him for moving too much. So I don’t know if it’s seeing things that aren’t there because of the pigment of my skin.” 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.
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. “I had to try to calm down,” he said. that may bear a previous name. Transgender students have been outed by Proctorio’s “ID Verification” procedure, which requires that they pose for a photograph with an I.D. Students with dark skin described the software’s failure to discern their faces.
Low-income students have been flagged for unsteady Wi-Fi, or for taking tests in rooms shared with family members. Other anecdotes call attention to the biases that are built into proctoring programs. In video calls with live proctors from ProctorU, test-takers have been forced to remove bonnets and other non-religious hair coverings—a policy that has prompted online pushback from Black women in particular—and students accessing Wi-Fi in public libraries have been ordered to take off protective masks.
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. When the coronavirus pandemic began, Femi Yemi-Ese, then a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, began attending class and taking exams remotely, from the apartment that he shared with roommates in the city.