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Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?

“What we will own is that we have not done a good enough job explaining what it is we do,” he said. of ExamSoft, denied that his company’s product performed poorly with dark-skinned people. “A lot of times, there are issues that get publicly printed that are not actually issues,” he said. Sebastian Vos, the C.E.O. Jarrod Morgan, the chief strategy officer of ProctorU, told me that his company was in need of “relational” rather than technical changes. Transgender students have been outed by Proctorio’s “ID Verification” procedure, which requires that they pose for a photograph with an I.D.

Other anecdotes call attention to the biases that are built into proctoring programs. Students with dark skin described the software’s failure to discern their faces. 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.

that may bear a previous name. Low-income students have been flagged for unsteady Wi-Fi, or for taking tests in rooms shared with family members. 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. 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. Despite these preparations, “I know that I’m going to have to try a couple times before the camera recognizes me,” he said.

“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. 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. Adding sources of light seems to help, but it comes with consequences. When college campuses shut down in March, 2020, remote-proctoring companies such as Proctorio, ProctorU, Examity, and ExamSoft benefitted immediately.

Proctorio’s list of clients grew more than five hundred per cent, from four hundred in 2019 to twenty-five hundred in 2021, according to the company, and its software administered an estimated twenty-one million exams in 2020, compared with four million in 2019. Fully algorithmic test-monitoring—which is less expensive, and available from companies including Proctorio, ExamSoft, and Respondus Monitor—has expanded even faster. These include ProctorU, which said, in December, that it had administered roughly four million exams in 2020 (up from 1.5 million in 2019), and Examity, which told Inside Higher Ed that its growth last spring exceeded pre-pandemic expectations by thirty-five per cent.

(In a survey of college instructors conducted early in the pandemic, ninety-three per cent expressed concern that students would be more likely to cheat on online exams.


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