Exams and tests are stressful moments for almost every student. Having to prove your knowledge to your teachers and professors can be a hard exercise. Even if you have put in the effort, external circumstances such as having a bad day or family trouble can have an impact on your grade. Trust is a key element in these situations. Students are trusted to not cheat and engage in other dishonest behavior. For tests that take place in a more traditional, non-virtual, configuration, there is supervision but only to a certain degree.
This has not been the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual learning has affected many students, but assessing knowledge during virtual school has faced even more changes. Proctoring software includes a combined usage of live human supervision and recording and computer-enhanced solutions such as eye-tracking and keystrokes patterns that might reveal ‘suspicious behavior.
While these techniques can prevent some forms of cheating, they also pose a threat to students on many different levels. On the one hand, students’ privacy is subject to a high degree of intrusion, with proctors having the right to assess their surroundings if they deem it appropriate. With the aid of artificial intelligence, many companies are now trying to detect certain patterns in students’ eye movements to show that they are cheating. Similar techniques are used to detect abnormal keyboard usage that could disclose illegal behavior.
The objective of this software seems to have good intentions since they are supposedly used to prevent cheating. Nevertheless, for many students, the rules and regulations that come associated with this new testing paradigm can feel daunting. Others, who suffer from facial tics are unjustly targeted and flagged by testing software as they do not conform to what the algorithm expects. Still, others may feel overwhelmed by the fact that someone is watching them while they take their exams.
This situation raises two main concerns. Firstly is whether this technology and its usage are beneficial. Despite potential benefits, students may object to it on many different grounds, some of which are listed above. Secondly is whether this is a reasonable use of technology. Even though a certain degree of proctoring is necessary to prevent cheating, testing is an activity built upon trust, and no amount of technology can change that fact. Moreover, this technology can accentuate the underlying emotions connected with test-taking.