Call Me a Skeptic

The EdTech universe is abuzz this week with excitement and trepidation about the direction of anti-cheating video monitoring in higher education.

This emerging category includes web cameras paired with facial-recognition software. Some of the manufacturers and adopters of these systems hope to remove (or reduce the usage of) live proctors from the exam equation, ensuring the legitimacy of online test-taking, and further automate the higher education experience.

As a college instructor and distance learning adviser, I’ve used online exams software of this ilk in the past, and it’s clear that the new iterations of anti-cheating systems are a vast improvement over earlier versions. There is no doubt that it will offer value and myriad benefits for test-takers, especially in remote locations. But are we really to believe that the presence of webcams, 360-degree pans to make sure no one is hiding a cell phones, and an honorable requests to show the student's ID card will quell the age-old desire to cheat? I’m skeptical. Not everyone wants to be watched by their web-camera during an exam, either. There are also privacy concerns; any web video feed must be rock-solid to ensure no hackers can steal test-takers’ confidential information and/or Social Security numbers. University data breaches are a growing concern, and they must not be taken lightly. Auburn University, for example, says it accidentally made the Social Security numbers of 364,012 people openly accessible online.

My EdTech skepticism is rooted in pragmatism. Technology cannot supplant every single aspect of higher educational experience, nor should it. Call me old-fashioned, but isn't there a life skill in learning that you need to show up for a test on time, out in the “real world?”

This New York Times article drills down into the details of other anti-cheating products, some of which require students and test-takers to sit in an upright position, facing the web cam.

This EdTech Magazine article explains how a new proctoring solution works and who is using the system in the pilot phase. Watch the video to see for yourself.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D., is a lecturer at Franklin Pierce University.