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Margarot Holding

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Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?

“I had to try to calm down,” he said. His dread of the software only increased after he was kicked out of an exam when a roommate dropped a pot in the kitchen, making a clang that rang through their apartment. “I feel like I can’t take a test in my natural state anymore, because they’re watching for all these movements, and what I think is natural they’re going to flag,” he told me. So I don’t know if it’s seeing things that aren’t there because of the pigment of my skin.” He feared that, if he showed physical signs of anxiety, Proctorio was “going to send the video to the professor and say that suspicious activity is going on.” The software, he said, “is just not accurate.

(Proctorio says that its software does not expel users from exams for noise.) By the time his professor let him back into the test, he had lost a half hour and his heart was racing. Last spring, during a Zoom meeting with a professor, Yemi-Ese learned that the software had flagged him for moving too much. “A lot of times, there are issues that get publicly printed that are not actually issues,” he said. Jarrod Morgan, the chief strategy officer of ProctorU, told me that his company was in need of “relational” rather than technical changes.

Sebastian Vos, the C.E.O. “What we will own is that we have not done a good enough job explaining what it is we do,” he said. of ExamSoft, denied that his company’s product performed poorly with dark-skinned people. Despite these preparations, “I know that I’m going to have to try a couple times before the camera recognizes me,” he said. Adding sources of light seems to help, but it comes with consequences. When we first spoke, last November, he told me that, in seven exams he’d taken using Proctorio, he had never once been let into a test on his first attempt.

“I have a light beaming into my eyes for the entire exam,” he said. Now, whenever he sits down to take an exam using Proctorio, he turns on every light in his bedroom, and positions a ring light behind his computer so that it shines directly into his eyes. “That’s hard when you’re actively trying not to look away, which could make it look like you’re cheating.” Like many test-takers of color, Yemi-Ese, who is Black, has spent the past three semesters using software that reliably struggles to locate his face.

senators sent letters to Proctorio, ProctorU, and ExamSoft, requesting information about “the steps that your company has taken to protect the civil rights of students,” and proof that their programs securely guard the data they collect, “such as images of [a student’s] home, photos of their identification, and personal information regarding their disabilities.” (Proctorio wrote a long letter in response, defending its practices.) On December 9th, the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center submitted a complaint to the attorney general of D.C.

against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data.

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