Proctorio is a remote monitoring service advertised as “the world’s first learning integrity platform.” It has been used by many universities, including UBC, as a way to invigilate online exams and enforce academic integrity.
However, Proctorio is problematic for a number of reasons. It adds unnecessary pressure and stress to students during online University due to how “Proctorio automatically analyzes and captures images of test-takers and their IDs, then displays both in the Proctorio Gradebook and flags any anomalies for review.”
What’s more, Proctorio has received criticism that it is not trustworthy after a UBC student complained about Proctorio on Reddit and a Proctorio CEO replied to the Reddit post with confidential information. Though the issue was resolved, and the student who made the Reddit post apologized, he shared that the fact that the privacy breach occurred reveals that “Proctorio is notoriously known for being invasive, unnecessary, and as well appears to illegally violate our provincial laws on privacy.”
However, after this supposed privacy breach, UBC posted this letter, stating that “[UBC is] confident that Proctorio did not reveal any personal information of the student and that no privacy breach occurred” and explained that,
“In some instances, use of Proctorio is optional and decided by individual instructors. Faculty members have the ability (or academic freedom) to consider how exam invigilation is conducted, or to redesign final assessments so as to uphold academic integrity while also fulfilling course learning objectives. In other instances, in programs with accreditation requirements, invigilation is required by the accrediting body. In either case, tools to support online exam invigilation will continue to be an option we make available to faculty members to safeguard academic integrity.”
Clearly, the use of Proctorio still occurs at UBC, although some professors may choose not to use the platform. I asked UBCO students to share their experiences with and opinions about Proctorio and the responses were strikingly resounding. Students are against the use of Proctorio.
“Proctorio adds an unreasonable amount of stress to online exams. Whether or not there is the potential for breach of privacy, having to scan your workspace, which oftentimes is my bedroom and very personal, makes me uncomfortable the entire time I am taking the test. On top of that, I have to see myself on screen the entire time, which is distracting and adds another layer of anxiety to writing tests. Moreover, I always get warnings that my laptop might not be able to handle the Proctorio software and that there is the potential that my laptop could crash during exams. I have a new MacBook that I bought specifically for school, so I can't afford to get another computer to run the software better, but I am always worried about it not working.”
“I personally disagree with the use of it. I can’t focus on my exam when I know someone might be watching each and every one of my actions through that webcam.”
“Proctorio is great, in theory, to avoid cheating but it makes me even more anxious to write my exam. Throughout the exam, I am constantly worrying that even the slightest eye movement will send a warning to my prof and all hell will break loose.”
“My experience has been really bad. The fact that you have to sit there without moving around is overwhelming which also led me to fail the exam. It just made me more nervous and hence, I blanked out! I still have to write a final just hoping I can calm my nerves down for that. But if any course, in term 2, is going to be Proctorio based I would be dropping it happily”
“The program was extremely invasive, without being able to appropriately prevent cheating. A gross invasion of my privacy without justifiable cause”
“Proctorio’s movement tracking technology isn’t accessible to students with movement disorders like myself. Every time a class uses the program, I have to tell my profs that I have a tic disorder and that I’m going to flag the system which completely defeats the purpose of using the technology in the first place to catch cheating. Universities and profs don’t take students with disabilities into account when using these lockdown browsers.”
“Proctorio is a terrible company/software which violates privacy in the name of academic integrity...in the online setting memory-based assessments are asinine. Exams should evaluate the application of concepts and theories, not someone's ability to absorb and regurgitate meaningless facts and statistics. Finally, these programs result in an unbelievable amount of stress for students and professors that is both unreasonable and unfair. I will not take any courses which require the use of software such as Proctorio or lockdown browser. Bottom line: Proctorio is a garbage program run by a garbage company which has profited on Universities' inability and/or unwillingness to actually adapt to this new online format.”
“The software is extremely invasive. It made me feel very uncomfortable and caused me to work slower than usual.”
Though these are all different UBCO students’ opinions, the consensus seems to be the same: Proctorio is invasive and detrimental to the student experience. There are other methods of evaluating students online that are more effective than invigilated exams, such as open-book tests or exams.
Moreover, Proctorio also requires a strong internet connection, and not all students can secure this connection in their respective situations. Sam Grinnell shared, “I was writing a midterm when Proctorio disconnected. It stopped saving quiz answers and I couldn't get it to reconnect. So, I hopped in my car and drove down to campus. I ran up to Commons, found an empty study room, and connected my laptop to the campus wifi. It was a fairly stressful experience having to drive during a timed exam. Proctorio requires a strong internet, which isn't necessarily something you can always count on, especially if you're like me and live in an apartment building that provides the internet.”
However, unlike Grinnell, many students do not live near campus while studying online. If they were to experience this issue, they would not have the opportunity to mitigate their problems as effectively.
There is no doubt Proctorio adds extra pressure and anxiety for students who are already under tremendously stressful circumstances. UBCO students are echoing the same message: stop using Proctorio as a means of online exam invigilation. Professors should find other ways to effectively test their students.