Online test-proctoring: educational spyware that lets third parties secretly watch and listen to you through your computer

Rebecca from EFF writes, "How would you feel about having your computer taken over by online test-taking software - complete with proctors peering through your laptop camera? Reporters at the Spartan Daily (the student paper for San Jose State University) have an interesting story about new software in use there, and the legitimate concerns that some students have. The data-broker connection is especially chilling to those worried about their personal information." The company's response? "We're a customer service business, so it’s really not advantageous for us to violate that trust." Oh, well, so long as that's sorted out then.

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  1. "We’re a customer service business, so it’s really not advantageous for us to violate that trust because then we wouldn’t have any business.”

    BUT the customer is not the student; it's the school or the teacher, so the above quote is disingenuous.

  2. JonS says:

    Heh. "ProctorU". How oddly appropriate as a name for the service.


    "It's really the only way you can give exams on an online class," Feist said.

    Rubbish. It's the only way Feist can give exams for an online class without going to the effort of tailoring the exam for the new environment, but it is NOT the only way to give exams. Two decades ago I had a lecturier who was trying to convince the University that he could run an open-book/open-laptop exam in a way that it didn't matter what we students brought with us, because he wanted to test concepts and understanding - rather than mere recall - and that meant that having access to reams of raw info was a disadvantage because there's no way we'd have time to sift through it looking for an answer. Not surprisingly he was stonewalled. Granted internet connectivity creates it's own problems with 'hive mind' behaviour possible, but again that simply means that the exam requires tailoring for that environment (not that I think that the tailoring itself would necessarily be simple).

    But, what's wrong with old-skool styles? Everyone with an internet connection - i.e., everyone taking an online course - is near an education intitution of some description. Have the students nominate (or pick from a list) the location where they would like to sit the test, then have them go there and take the test. With a meatspace proctor in attendance. I've been taking extramural papers for several years, and this is exactly what they do, and it seems to work ok.

    What problem, exactly, is ProctologyU supposedly solving?

    (On the downside, the University I'm doing papers through does use TurnItIn, which I fucking hate. And I hate it even more that the only alternative is "well, don't do any papers then.")

  3. It would only ever get installed on a VM for me. Let them rifle through a blank WinXP image running only the testing software all they like.

  4. What a joke, if someone is going to cheat they are going to cheat.
    In a college/higher learning situation this is just dumb. If a student is cheating at that level they really are cheating themselves. So they want to make sure students aren't opening other browsers/tabs to search for an answer.
    It wouldn't be all that hard to run it in a virtual machine that would stop a program like this in it's tracks, the extra fun would come in from having it feed something from a camzone camera...something like

  5. d_r says:

    The reason this story is coming to you from SJSU is that they have been leading the way in trying to figure out how to offer college credit for MOOCs. However, finding a credible way to proctor exams for remote students is an old problem (predating computers) that has not yet been solved to everyone's satisfaction. ProctorU and similar services offer an interesting approach, but their privacy protocols do seem underdeveloped. They were the subject of an article last year in the Chronicle of Higher Education which has many more details about their operation and which provides a nice complement to the article linked here.

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