Who is paying for this “service”?

I find it hard to believe any institution is shelling out money for these authoritarian proctoring services.

When University of Florida sophomore Cheyenne Keating felt a rush of nausea a few weeks ago during her at-home statistics exam, she looked into her webcam and asked the stranger on the other side: Is it okay to throw up at my desk?

He said yes. So halfway through the two-hour test, during which her every movement was scrutinized for cheating and no bathroom breaks were permitted, she vomited into a wicker basket, dabbed the mess with a blanket and got right back to work. The stranger saw everything. When the test was finished, he said she was free to log off. Only then could she clean herself up.

“Online proctor” services like these have already policed millions of American college exams, tapping into students’ cameras, microphones and computer screens when they take their tests at home. Now these companies are enjoying a rush of new business as the coronavirus pandemic closes thousands of American schools, and executives are racing to capture new clients during what some are calling a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

This is contrary to any good teaching practice. When your paranoia is so great that you no longer trust your students to learn, then you can’t teach effectively. What is wrong with the University of Florida, or anyone else who coughs up money to have strangers sit and stare at their students?

If my university required this kind of nonsense, I’d tell them to fuck off, no way am I subjecting students to this kind of humiliation. Fortunately, I think most of my colleagues would express the same sentiment.


  1. says

    So much wrong with Florida in general. FFS they voted for Trump even though his climate policies are literally going to sink their state into the ocean.
    Also, maybe my university experience was different, but most tests were open note or open book. You should expect a student to know how to use a K (equilibrium constant) value in a chemical equation, but you can’t expect them to memorize 50 of them. Being able to access the necessary knowledge and apply it is far more important than just memorizing things. Being able to look up the right things to solve a problem is not cheating it’s the future of education.

  2. says

    Isn’t that assault? Isn’t even not allowing people to use a restroom for 2 hours assault? Or torture?

  3. blf says

    That is completely the opposite of my University, where exams were, almost always, take-home. Some were open book, others not; some had time limits, others did not (albeit, of course, there was always a deadline). It worked quite well, and the rules were almost-always followed. One reason was a reasonable honour system, and another (closely-related) reason is being a small science-heavy place, where essentially everyone was a scientist or being educated as such, there was a great deal of emphasis put on trust, honesty, and integrity. (I sometimes speculate that is why I tend to be so intolerant of deliberate liars, frauds, quacks, and so on…)

    This was in the pre-WWW era (and to be more pedantic, when the Internet was still called the ARPAnet), so also pre-mobile phone era. Whilst I don’t know, I presume there hasn’t been much of a change, albeit very probably some adjustments.

  4. vucodlak says

    This paranoia over the possibility of students cheating is part of why I dropped out of university.

    I had one professor who required a bibiliographic citation for each, individual sentence in a lengthy report. He further told us that he would be running our papers through a program that could determine if we’d “plagiarized” so much as a sentence fragment from anything anywhere on the internet, even if we’d changed it a little. If the program found anything or we messed up the citations, we would receive zeros for the course, be reported to the administration, and likely expelled.

    I freaked out, because the way he described this program, I was terrified that I would end up tripping it by accident and be expelled from school. I couldn’t begin to wrap my head around doing a citation for each sentence, either. It just wasn’t something I could see how to do with the way I write. I’m careful to cite the sources I use, but for sentence? How would that even work?

    I had a breakdown. I was too afraid to turn in the papers. I quit coming to class because I couldn’t deal with explaining why I hadn’t turned in the papers; I was afraid I’d be accused of planning to cheat, or that the admin would somehow go back through my work for other classes and decide I’d cheated. I never cheated, but I was afraid my fear alone would be considered justification to expel me under the principle of “if you’ve got nothing to hide, what are you afraid of?” I came in on final exam day and, instead answering the exam questions, tried to write an explanation of why I hadn’t done the essays. I was half certain I was going to get kicked out of school for it.

    Nothing happened to me (beyond, I’m certain, failing the class), but the next semester I had another, bigger breakdown, and left school for good. I’m a paranoid person anyway (comes from a being raised by gaslighting abusers), and I couldn’t take the stress anymore.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    What is wrong with the University of Florida…?

    The president of UF was selected by Gov. (now Sen.) Rick “Skeletor” Scott, and approved by the teabagger Florida Senate. UF’s incredibly top-heavy administration lives and breathes fund-raising, union-busting, and football, and has driven much of the best faculty to other institutions which at least pretend to understand and respect the concept of academic freedom. The campus cops have earned a reputation as trigger-happy racists, stats and stories of student rape, suicide, and binge-drinking get swept under a mountainously lumpy carpet, and a tightly-organized generations-long network of fraternities has an iron grip on student government and campus life generally.

    And that’s just the part visible to a townie who sets foot on campus less than once a year.

  6. stwriley says

    Thank the FSM that people aren’t trying this nonsense in K-12 education. Here in North Carolina, they’re about to announce the cancellation of all the state final exams and end-of-grade tests for the year (these are all state-generated exams in NC.) Now, if they’d just do that permanently and let us get back to writing our own exams for students, we’d all be a lot better off.

  7. says

    @9 UMN has proctorio available, it is not required to be used. I know this as I have given three quizzes and one exam without using it. There are also options that do not require cameras or have online proctors staring at you (not sure if the latter is part of proctorio).