Colleges and universities are increasingly using digital tools to prevent cheating during online exams, since so many students are taking class from home or their dorm rooms in the era of COVID-19.
The programs — prominent software options include Pearson VUE and Honorlock — analyze imagery from students' webcams to detect behavior that might be linked to cheating.
Needless to say, there are pain points.
University of Kentucky professor Josef Fruehwald, for instance, said in a popular video on TikTok that he wouldn't trust educators who use the software, prompting 2.3 million views and dozens of comments from stressed out students.
"One of my French exams got flagged for cheating because I was crying for the whole thing and my French prof had to watch 45 min of me quietly sobbing," one user replied.
"Since COVID, LSAT uses a proctoring system," another said. "I was yelled at for having a framed quote from my grandmother on the wall."
No less harrowing, one student said a proctor asked them to change into "something more conservative" during the exam, in the student's own home.
Fruehwald got so many responses he made a Twitter thread about it — whereupon tweeps started sharing even more allegations.
"My husband has two classes left for his BFA and one of them is a math class that requires an assessment test before enrolling," wrote one person. "He should have graduated two years ago but he couldn't take the friggin math class because THE SOUND OF HIS LAPTOP'S FAN SET OFF THE PROCTOR SOFTWARE."
Representatives of the anti-cheating software market did push back.
"Honorlock uses facial detection and ensures certain facial landmarks are present in the webcam during the assessment," said Honorlock's chief marketing officer Tess Mitchell, after this story was initially published. "Honorlock records the student’s webcam, so crying is visible, however, crying does not trigger a flag or proctor intervention."
Eye tracking software isn't exactly knocking it out of the park in the public opinion lately. One startup is forcing people to watch ads with their eyelids all the way open, and another is offering crypto in exchange for eyeball time.
The pandemic has changed a lot about the way society runs, and education seems to be a particularly challenged sector. As teachers quit jobs and students say they're silently sobbing into eye tracking programs on a computer screen, it's not hard to see why.
Updated with additional context and a statement from Honorlock.
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