Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?
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.
(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.) Some of these companies offer live proctoring underwritten by artificial intelligence. 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.
One student tweeted, “professor just emailed me asking why i had the highest flag from proctorio. “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. The surge in online-proctoring services has launched a wave of complaints. 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.
Anti-online-proctoring Twitter accounts popped up, such as @Procteario and @ProcterrorU. “Being in sports for as long as I was, and getting yelled at by coaches, I don’t get stressed much,” he said. A former Division 1 football player, majoring in kinesiology, Yemi-Ese had never suffered from anxiety during tests. 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.
Yemi-Ese turned on more lights and tilted his camera to catch his face at its most illuminated angle; it took several tries before the software approved him to begin. 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. He was initially unconcerned when he learned that several of his classes, including a course in life-span development and another in exercise physiology, would be administering exams using Proctorio, a software program that monitors test-takers for possible signs of cheating.