Online Test Proctoring Feels Invasive and Discriminatory

by Zoe Harwood
Also Featured on KQED

Online Test Proctoring Feels Invasive and Discriminatory

by Zoe Harwood
Also Featured on KQED
11.11.21
Photo courtesy of Zoe Harwood
11.11.21

I’m a very slow test taker. When I first took the PSAT in high school, almost everyone finished before me — making me feel like I’d done something wrong. When it was over, I felt so awful I literally ran out of the room. I needed to get out of there.

After spending my first year of college entirely online, test taking became even more complicated. Some teachers looked for ways to ensure their students weren’t cheating. That’s how my friend Jack was introduced to virtual proctoring — software that monitors you while taking an exam.

Jack said his experience felt invasive. His proctor had him take a 360 view of his room before the test. Having this proctor watch him and take note of everything he did was extremely nerve-wracking. And if that were me, I bet I’d be freaking out even more.

Hearing more about virtual proctoring got me pretty worried, so I dug into it. I talked to a bunch of people about their experiences. One student told me she had to stand on a table — next to a ceiling light — because the AI didn’t know how to handle anyone who wasn’t white. Another said these services demanded so much data she was suing the company for violating privacy laws.

Here’s the kicker for me — I found a stat on a proctoring service’s site. It said less than one percent of its users were found to have done anything dishonest. When I found that, I was enraged. Do we really need to be doing this?

Even as we transition back to in person learning, virtual proctoring continues. It’s completely understandable for teachers to want to stop cheating. But can we at least look at some other way to do that — one that doesn’t infringe on our civil rights and privacy?

Teachers using this problematic software might end up fostering distrust between their students. And if we the students can’t trust our teachers, how are we supposed to actually learn anything?

Want to dive deeper into this issue? YR Media looked into the rise of AI-powered virtual proctoring apps to administer exams in a special investigation Surveillance U: Has Virtual Proctoring Gone Too Far?