Harpur College of Arts and Sciences is considering implementing a new requirement for students who take online courses. Beginning this summer, students may have to use a proctoring service that could tax their wallets and comfort levels.
The service, ProctorU, would allow a private proctor to monitor students as they take online exams. Online courses using ProctorU would require students to purchase a webcam and microphone and use the devices to sustain communication with a proctor while they take exams. Students would need to meet as many as seven other technical requirements to use the ProctorU system, including allowing remote access to their computer and screen. They would also have to pay ProctorU a $22.50 fee per exam.
“The issue here is academic integrity,” said Jennifer Jensen, an associate dean of Harpur College. “We know many students would not violate rules during exams — but we need to ensure that all students are following exam rules and not using online materials or consulting with one another. Web proctoring is an effective and efficient way to do this during an online course.”
Kate Flatley, Student Association vice president of academic affairs-elect, said the Harpur College Dean’s office informed her that Harpur College professors can opt to use ProctorU this summer, and that the service could eventually become mandatory for all online classes.
She opposes the new requirement and is working to prevent its implementation.
“I think it’s a gross violation of student privacy rights and places an undue financial stress on students as well,” Flatley said. “My main goal is to stop it entirely. It’s not current policy because it needs to be voted and approved by Harpur College Council. [Associate Dean Jensen] is still encouraging professors to use it.”
To use ProctorU, a student must create an account on the service’s website and schedule a time and date when he or she will take an exam. At the scheduled time, the student begins a video chat with a provided proctor, who asks the student to show photo identification and his or her surroundings so as to ensure the integrity of the test-taking.
The proctor will then ask the student other identification questions that, according to ProctorU’s website, is formulated from “public information.” The proctor remains available throughout the exam to resolve technical issues.
“We watch their screen. We watch their eye movement. We’re watching them at all times,” said a representative on the ProctorU instructional video. “We’re there to help.”
No SUNY school is listed among the institutions that use ProctorU on the service’s website. ProctorU currently names 67 partner institutions, including large schools like University of Arizona and University of Florida.
Some instructors of online courses at Binghamton University said they thought ProctorU was unnecessary.
“I think it’s an added burden on the student,” said Mark Reisinger, an associate professor of geography who has been teaching online courses for five years. “I would like to think our students are more ethical and honest. I think the $22.50 per exam is a bit costly.”
According to Jensen, students who do not want to pay for or use ProctorU could opt to return to campus for a proctored exam.
“If a student is not in the BU area, however, taking a proctored exam online is going to be less expensive than paying for gas or bus fare to take a proctored exam on campus,” she said.
Reisinger also acknowledged privacy concerns raised by the implementation of ProctorU.
“I can see some real concerns,” he said. “Do these people still have access to my computer after the exam? What sort of things can they access while I’m taking the exam? Can they access my files?”
Reisinger said the Harpur College Dean’s office has been considering implementing online proctoring for several months and has given multiple demonstrations to professors on how the service is used.
Other instructors said they viewed ProctorU as a way to ensure student honesty.
“I do think ProctorU will cut down on the instances of students taking the exam for others,” said Michael Delgado, a doctoral candidate in the economics department who will be teaching an online course, Statistical Methods, this summer. “As an instructor I would like more assurance that the students enrolled in my class are the ones taking the exam, but I do agree that it may violate the privacy of honest, hardworking students in the course. I would not want any of my students to feel like their rights were infringed upon while taking my course.”
Jensen said she was not sure if “proctoring online exams will eliminate all cheating.”
She suggested that ProctorU will emphasize to students that they are expected to do their own work and will make it more difficult for students to cheat on online exams.
Flatley said she questioned how effective the system will be and said cheating can occur in any academic environment.
“The student cannot leave the exam location, even to use the bathroom. The regulations are stricter than an in-class exam,” Flatley said.
— Emily Melas contributed to this report.