Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Student Government plans to propose policy regulating proctoring software at Cal Poly Pomona as the university weighs administrative and faculty concerns over academic integrity during virtual instruction as well as student reservations over privacy and cybersecurity threats posed by the software.
Proctoring software programs are used to monitor and control a student’s computer activity, usually while taking an exam. This can range from locking a user’s browser to tracking eye movement and audio discrepancies.
Software programs such as Proctorio or ProctorU employ similar methods and have been required for test taking by a growing number of CPP professors. In response, many students have argued that such software can present significant harms.
“I worry about my security,” said Trinity Faire, a third-year visual communication design student. “Giving some random software access to my browser and my webcam does not feel right. It is incredibly intrusive.”
Despite student concerns, distance learning has led to many faculty members relying on proctoring programs, prompting ASI to advocate for policy.
“The fact that there is not an academic policy right now is what worries me,” said ASI Vice President Manshaan Singh. “That means that professors can use it and there’s no outlined exceptions.”
Singh hopes to introduce a policy in the Academic Senate outlining regulations and restrictions for online proctoring usage.
Faye Wachs, chair of the senate’s Academic Affairs Committee said, “I personally think this is a great opportunity to rethink assessment — the purpose of assessment, the goal and the place. If the goal is to weed out, eliminate or gatekeep, then the software is probably useful, though not necessarily for (testing) knowledge, ability or strengths.”
Administration and faculty maintain worry over ensuring academic integrity. With answers a simple click away, there is pressure to limit the possibility of dishonesty.
For some students, invasions of privacy and the security risks outweigh issues of potential academic dishonesty.
Fourth-year biology student Mariel Mares also raised concerns about the damage unsafe software can pose to students’ devices. “A lot of us don’t have money to spend, so if these programs have the potential to hurt our laptops or computers, it’s not fair that we are forced to use them.”
Several professors have modified their curriculum and found alternatives to assessments to ensure student understanding of course material. For other departments, however, quizzes and exams are an integral part of their courses.
This is the case for Assistant Professor Paul Nissenson of the Mechanical Engineering Department. “I am beginning to teach 3000-level courses, which means I’m going to have a lot of quizzes and I’m going to try doing the Zoom proctoring,” Nissenson stated.
Though not yet requiring any additional software, Nissenson recognized some potential issues with proctoring programs. Along with the cybersecurity concerns, he acknowledged how some students may “have a chaotic household” and thus programs which monitor eye movement or noise abnormalities might not be the most effective.
Nissenson added, “The topic of academic integrity is something that faculty take very serious but we’re not trying to torture the students here. We want to make sure that if someone receives a passing grade in the class that they’re actually qualified to move on to a program to eventually become someone who builds bridges.”
Wachs shared similar sentiments, “I have too many students working on phones, with unreliable internet, already stressed out. For me, finding other ways to measure content engagement and mastery seemed a better choice. My goal has been to not be the person making someone’s life harder in this difficult time.”
The CSU campuses have recently released guidelines to dissuade professors from requiring proctoring software though no official prescription has been made. CPP has gone as far as banning the use of the program Respondus due to the many security issues.
Singh maintained his stance on forming an online proctoring policy and plans to meet with administration to ensure student security. “My goal is to work with the administration to draft a policy that we can both agree on and then introduce it to the Academic Senate.”