Utrecht 09/06/2020 - The Corona Crisis caused an uproar in our daily lives. Restaurants closed, gyms closed, but also universities have closed. To still provide students with the possibility to follow courses, all universities have decided to continue the process online. However, in order to get a valuable degree, students still have to take exams. Therefore, many universities have decided to change the way of the examination. Mostly, exams are transferred into open book exams or essays. Yet, some universities have decided to take the exams in an online environment, where the students are continuously monitored with a specific software. This software is called proctoring software. To make you familiar about the topic of discussion, we collected information about proctoring software and what the current discussion is about.

Throughout the last months, students in Dutch Higher Education Institutions had discussions with their universities about the usage of proctoring software. Many students do not agree with using it, as there is a lot of controversy going on regarding the usage, and unclarity about what happens with the retrieved data. When installing the software, they have to give up their biometric data, have to turn on both their camera and microphone, are being recorded by facial detection that analyses their behavior and movements during the exam, have to make a 360 scan of the environment in which they are taking the exam and have to give the program the permission to record their screen behavior. For many students, this feels like an invasion of their privacy and students worry about the external factors caused by their environment, as this can unfairly be seen as fraud. Universities do everything they can to provide answers to all the questions students have about the programs, yet it does not solve all the concerns the students have. For example, the permission for the proctoring software should be only used during the exam, but this does not mean that the software could be used at any time by nefarious users. As a result of the many concerns students had and the fact that Dutch universities have to provide alternative methods, several universities have acknowledged the fact that the proctoring software is not the solution for taking exams and therefore have implemented the alternative methods. But still, several Dutch universities have decided to make use of the software.

Some students decided to opt-out of the exams, and the alternative method some universities provided is to fail the course and take it again next year when the possibility is there to take it in an offline environment. Some students belief that with this alternative method that they are not given a fair alternative to proctoring, especially when other forms of online examinations exist and other universities have changed the way of examination.

The problem with the current situation that students are facing is that they do not have the fellng that they can freely give permission to online proctoring without facing consequences. However, students should not forget that they have the right to be provided with an alternative form of testing if they do not want to subject themselves to the dangers of exposing their private data. Thus, make sure to contact your professor if you do not feel safe with using proctoring software, or gather a group of students to discuss the topic with your universities. In case your professor is not understanding towards your wish to not share your data with third party operators, the university’s Board of Examination can help in these kinds of situations. However, if worst comes to worst, you can always seek legal advice and file a complaint with the Dutch Privacy Commissioner.

Written by Angel Almendros Salerno and Thomas McKeown