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Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?

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.

The surge in online-proctoring services has launched a wave of complaints. “Now proctorio has a video of me crying,” the student wrote. A letter of protest addressed to the CUNY administration has nearly thirty thousand signatures. Anti-online-proctoring Twitter accounts popped up, such as @Procteario and @ProcterrorU. “After I figured out nothing was going to change, I guess I got numb to it,” he said. Yemi-Ese’s grades dropped precipitously early in the pandemic, a problem he attributed in large part to Proctorio.

Still, he managed to raise his grades back to pre-pandemic levels, even in classes that required Proctorio. 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. (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.

(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. So I don’t know if it’s seeing things that aren’t there because of the pigment of my skin.” Last spring, during a Zoom meeting with a professor, Yemi-Ese learned that the software had flagged him for moving too much.

“I had to try to calm down,” he said. 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. 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. Jarrod Morgan, the chief strategy officer of ProctorU, told me that his company was in need of “relational” rather than technical changes.

“A lot of times, there are issues that get publicly printed that are not actually issues,” he said. “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.

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