Online proctoring unfairly punishes cheaters & non-cheaters alike

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With exam season just weeks away, universities are turning to online proctoring software like Examity and Proctortrack to prevent cheating. Professors have every right to enforce academic integrity, yet these proctors appear to be doing more harm than good.

In a normal year, students would sit down in a lecture hall and have a proctor monitor from afar. Remote proctoring takes this to the extreme, scrutinizing students’ every move.

Many of these programs take note of “unusual movement”, things like looking away from the screen too often. This level of scrutiny creates an added layer of anxiety that the test taker might do something to trigger the proctor’s red flag, leaving many students more stressed out about the software than the test itself.

“Unusual movement” doesn’t necessarily mean someone is cheating either. Resting your eyes off screen or turning your head for a moment shouldn’t be grounds for penalty, especially when staring at a computer for three hours straight is unrealistic.

Many of these programs also assume students can find a quiet, empty room with a strong internet connection to take their exams. In reality, many students are living in environments where they wouldn’t normally study or take tests, let alone go to school. Trying to prevent background noise or someone walking behind you on screen can be, at times, unavoidable.

It’s understandable that professors want to enforce academic integrity. But many of these proctoring software are making exams more arduous than they would normally be, creating more problems than benefits.

At the end of the day, students determined to cheat will find a way to do so, even with proctoring technologies in place. Enforcing these overly complicated measures might catch some of these students, but it will punish those obeying the rules too.

Exams are meant to test a student’s comprehension of the course material, but even without the superfluous proctoring technology, they have flaws. Some students simply don’t test well. Others might not have academic accommodations—even if they need them.

Exams don’t translate into the real world either. Assignments are a better test of a student’s knowledge and lack unnecessary pressure. While exams can make or break a student’s grade, easing testing protocols this year won’t be the end of the world.

Universities should also consider that by funnelling large sums of money into these proctoring technologies, schools stray even further from academic environments and into corporate ones, where the focus is never on a student’s wellbeing.

Professors, please stop treating every one of your students like a cheater. Instead, recognize that catching the occasional cheater isn’t worth punishing the class in its entirety.

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