As for questions surrounding whether remote proctoring software is biased against students who are disabled, not white or can’t produce a distraction-free environment, Olsen said instructors have discretion as to what they do with the information they get from the program. If an instructor decides they want Proctorio to record students taking a test, the software would alert the instructor to behavior the instructor has set the software to highlight as suspicious. For example, talking during the exam.
“Maybe it’s their kid asking for a glass of water or maybe it’s a roommate giving them the answer to question one,” he said. The instructor can review the footage and decide how to handle what’s been identified. “It’s not going to kick you out, it’s just going to flag whatever those behaviors are,” Olsen said of the software.
Setting aside concerns about remote proctoring technology’s implications for equity, advocates of abandoning it say using these programs may hinder instructors’ efforts to promote academic integrity.
‘Destroys that trust relationship’
Aloha Sargent, a technology services librarian at Cabrillo Community College, trains instructors on how to teach remotely. As part of that training she emphasizes the significance of the connection between a student and teacher. She’s been active in the movement countering remote proctoring technology in part because it can undermine that student-instructor dynamic, Sargent said.
“The most important factor for student success in an online course is their relationship with their instructor. They need to feel that there’s an actual human being that cares about them and who wants them to succeed,” she said.
“That relationship between the student and instructor is built on trust and remote proctoring destroys that trust relationship … it’s more likely to make students want to cheat because of how they feel about having to use that software,” she said.
The questions surrounding how best to monitor students in a remote environment have added new urgency to conversations that have been taking place among curriculum specialists for years about whether there are better ways to assess students than a closed-book multiple choice exam.
Some best practices include having students take several low-stakes exams instead of one or two high-stakes tests and providing more flexibility with exam dates — as Manturuk noted, she came up with all of the due dates for assignments in her courses at her kitchen table with little context about how those dates line up with students’ other commitments.
Instructional designers push for different types of tests
More broadly, these advocates are pushing instructors to move towards what they call authentic assessments or assignments and tests that evaluate a student’s ability to apply the skills and concepts they’re supposed to learn in a course.
For example, instead of asking sociology students to define certain theories of crime and crime reduction, instructors could ask students to look up the website of an elected official and explain which theory of crime or crime reduction best fits with their platform, Manturuk said. It’s much harder to find the answer to the second question online, and to answer it, students have to know the material well enough to apply it to a real-world situation, she said.
Though it may take less time for an instructor to come up with a multiple choice exam than an assessment of this type, the more traditional test “is very quickly in the public domain,” Manturuk said. Investing time in creating authentic assessment pays off on the back end, she said, because instructors aren’t worried about or hunting down students who they believe may have cheated.
At Contra Costa College in San Pablo, California, Maritez Apigo, distance education coordinator, open educational resources coordinator, and English professor, became concerned about use of the remote-proctoring technology after students complained to her over the summer.
“It’s really stressful, it causes a lot of anxiety and we just wanted to ask if there’s any way that there can be less use of it,” Apigo said they told her.
As chair of the academic senate’s distance education sub-committee, Apigo helped write guidance (link) for fellow faculty that described online-proctoring software as “highly problematic” and suggested alternatives. After some debate in the academic senate over whether it could be issued campuswide, the guidance ultimately gained a majority vote, she said.
After it was published and shared on social media, officials at other schools were contacting Apigo asking for permission to use it, she said.
At the same time that instructors are rethinking the ways they test students, companies are positioning themselves to take advantage of what they see as the future of assessment. Some expect that even after this period of questioning surrounding data privacy, equity and the best ways to teach and test students, instructors will stick to more traditional modes of assessment, said James Wiley, Eduventures principal analyst at ACT NRCCUA, which provides data and research to higher education institutions.
But even if test-taking moves away from high-stakes closed book exams, other education technology companies will be prepared to benefit. These companies are betting “assessment will become more project-based, more essay-based,” Wiley said. “They want to position themselves accordingly.”
-Jillian Berman; 415-439-6400; [email protected]
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