Students struggle with online test proctoring systems

Students are often required to use Proctorio during online classes. Some find the experience frustrating or even invasive. (Photo illustration by Hannah Miner)

Some BYU students doubt the effectiveness of Proctorio and feel that the system can be anxiety inducing.

Proctorio is a system that monitors students and their computer screens during an exam. The program scans for plagiarism, flags suspicious behavior such as eye movement to a specific location, and evaluates activity in the room to prevent cheating in any form.

Though this might seem like a fool-proof plan to monitor students in this new online environment, some students say it increases their test-taking anxiety. The idea of being recorded or their eye movements being tracked distracts students and creates an uncomfortable test-taking atmosphere.

While using Proctorio, BYU student Ben Duffield becomes stressed out. “Knowing that the computer is tracking my eye movement, noise and motion makes me hypersensitive to what I’m doing and so I end up distracted trying to keep myself from doing anything that could seem suspicious.”

Duffield, however, recognizes that not everyone is going to be honest when taking non-proctored tests on websites such as Learning Suite, so he understands the need for the system, whether or not he enjoys the experience.

BYU student Anne Brenchley said “knowing I’m being recorded adds anxiety” to her test taking experience.

Though the system can easily be compared to the BYU Testing Center where student proctors monitor test takers and cameras record students taking tests, Brenchley finds Proctorio much more intimidating.

“The Proctorio program crosses many boundaries of recording you in your home. I believe there is a better option of proctoring exams than having a video and audio recording of you,” Brenchley said.

In a poll done by the Daily Universe on Instagram, a thousand people responded to the question: “Do you feel systems like Proctorio are an effective test taking platform?” Respondents were split in their vote, with 55% of respondents saying no and 45% saying yes.

As a former student instructor for the business school, Makenzie Davis was instructed to use Proctorio while teaching at the Salt Lake Center. She recognized the positive and negative aspects of the system. As a student herself, she was “always nervous a roommate would come into my room unannounced,” but as an instructor, she noticed business school applicants felt it created an equal playing field for future major admissions as it would prevent cheating.

Davis realized not very many students like Proctorio. “Obviously, there are ways to cheat with Proctorio, but we used it more as a deterrent to cheat rather than to catch cheating,” she said. “If things pop up, it’s pretty easy to tell when a student is looking at notes versus sudden random noises.”

Media law professor and director of the School of Communications, Ed Carter, “felt like this semester had enough stresses and wanted to look for ways to simplify and reduce stress” by choosing not to use Proctorio.

He noted these proctoring systems have a time and place and he will possibly use it again in the future, but this year, he is leaving it up to the honesty of the students and the guidelines they have been given.

“I’m just instructing the students that they should follow the instructions that I give them as well as the academic honesty portions of the Honor Code. I suppose there could be ways students could cheat, but overall I leave it up to them to just follow the parameters,” he said.

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