Online monitoring and cheating countermeasures have increased during the pandemic, and many students find these procedures invasive and out of touch with their lives.
At UTA, there has been an increase in academic misconduct reports to the Office of Community Standards during the pandemic. It is unclear whether this is due to an increase in cheating or if professors are just catching students more often.
Polling shows that online proctoring has surged nationally during the pandemic, according to EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit that specializes in IT for higher education. Over 2,000 educational institutions are using LockDown Browser, according to Respondus, the company that provides the service.
Linguistics sophomore Abbrielle Diamos said she feels that many of the extra measures taken against academic dishonesty are pointless.
Diamos lives with her sister, and her desk is close to where her sister works. She has to leave her home whenever her sister needs to take a test, for fear of being seen or heard.
Professors’ expectations for students to follow academic integrity measures do not tend to account for students’ real-life situations, Diamos said.
“A lot of us are in situations where we can’t be alone cause of the lockdown and everything,” she said. “We just don’t have a choice.”
Diamos also said she feels that the LockDown Browser camera proctoring is an invasion of privacy. Even though students are in a different situation with people having to stay home, she said it doesn’t mean professors have a right to intrude on students’ privacy, and it’s punishing people who have done nothing wrong.
Public health sophomore Armauni Nolan is part of a class where her professor banned GroupMe chats, she said.
“I understand what they’re trying to do, but I feel like GroupMe is just something that we need,” Nolan said. “It’s not only messaging to get information, it’s where we could blow off steam.”
Nolan said now that students are in the middle of a pandemic, they have an extra workload they’re not used to.
“I just feel like it’s very overwhelming, and it’s not helping with anxiety or mental health,” Nolan said. “It’s just making things harder for me.”
Diamos said the way schools are handling things now is not working. She wishes professors would test in different ways that allow for the use of notes and for tests to be more about course content.
Nolan wishes professors would be more inclusive, more understanding and take into account students’ home lives. She feels like it would also be easier to break up exams into small quizzes and possibly test over one chapter’s content each week, she said.
Biology professor Esther Betran said she understands students are going through hard times, and she realizes this is a new setting. She also said she feels like she is invading students’ privacy by using a web cam to monitor them.
Betran said that during pre-pandemic classes, there were very few ways for students to cheat.
Now that learning has moved online, Betran uses Lockdown Browser with camera proctoring. When Betran compares the exams with previous years, the scores are not higher.
She is not seeing an effect of cheating in general. While she’s aware there are ways for students to cheat, she is more worried about the lack of communication that comes from not having in-person classes and whether or not students are really learning.
If a student is suspected of cheating, faculty are required to submit a referral to the Office of Community Standards who will then investigate and proceed with facilitating the conduct process, Dan Moore, Academic Integrity associate director, said in an email.
Faculty are not required to meet with students, but it is encouraged. If the student chooses to speak with the professor and accepts responsibility, they can choose to sign the referral form. If the student doesn’t have any prior misconduct violations, and the current violation is not severe, the Office of Community Standards does not schedule an additional meeting and instead is sent an outcome letter. The punishment for being found responsible for an academic misconduct violation varies depending on the specifics of the situation, Moore said.
Diamos understands that this is a difficult situation and that professors and faculty are dealing with it, too. However, it feels like there definitely could be a better way to do it, she said.