This week, students studying law at Monash University in Melbourne have protested against the exam conditions imposed upon them during COVID-19. Over 980 ‘disappointed’ students have signed a survey registering their distress and frustration with the new exam protocols. On 10 June 2020, students were told that they would need to ensure they had multiple devices which can sustain three hours of a video call, so that exam invigilators can monitor them while taking the exams at home.
Their frustration reflects the concerns of many tertiary students around the country seeking to adapt to online learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The online exam-taking software ProctorU has come under fire due to concerns about privacy and data protection. ProctorU is a software which monitors students taking exams at home via webcam and allows students to hand over control of the computer to ‘proctors’ located elsewhere. Generally the student is required to present their ID card on camera, and the software uses its own facial recognition software to confirm the student’s identity. The student is then asked to take a 360 degree view of the bedroom so the proctors can identify anything suspicious. During the exam, the webcam technology tracks eye movement, noise and keystrokes to ensure the student isn’t looking at notes hidden elsewhere in the room. By granting the proctor control of the computer, the software is able to disable some computer functions such as copy and paste, and can turn off any applications running in the background.
One thing that we can be sure of is that these are unprecedented times, and it is important that universities acknowledge the varying circumstances of their students. Educational integrity, as well as equal opportunity examinations and protection of student privacy, are all to be strived for.