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I suppose many instructors are looking for such a software. I give an exam that requires pencil and paper and computer software. I want to be able to look at computer screens students are using, I want to be able to look at their webcam output, their desk, etc. I want to be able to send messages by chat or voice to class or to a single student. I do not want to share the screen I am looking at, by default, with the entire class.

Of course only external webcams, relocated under command, will have the necessary effectiveness. Integrated webcams have many blind spots.

Some software attempt to automate the monitoring of exams. They produce videos and record student's computer and environment. In my case it has turned out to be of limited value.

What software do you plan to use in the coming fall semester?

Edit- 8/11/2020

I just used Blackboard Collaborative Ultra (BCU) in a summer junior-level class with 15 students. Perhaps BCU it is not meant for this purpose but it worked better than the automated monitoring software. It has 20 breakout rooms. So you can accommodate 20 students, or 40 if you are willing to give two different exams. From the main room you have no view. You have to rotate among the rooms to see anything. So it feels a bit clunky. If you want to check students' work environment ask them to show up in advance (you end up acting like a TSA agent at an airport).

Edit- 8/18/2020

Zoom has 50 breakout rooms. Spreading students into rooms seems easier here. I have not tried it yet though.

Independent webcam allow you to inspect the environment with much more ease and certainty than an integrated one. However most of these do not get secured to anything easily and do not have a tripod or base. They can be secured to objects like a paper towel.

Please note that this is not a discussion about privacy issues, unless it is in relation to a comparison of two software.

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    Probably nothing can meet your needs. It would require too much equipment (and bandwidth) for each student. The situation is too chaotic now for any well-thought-out solutions. – Buffy Aug 7 '20 at 23:17
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    Most webcams are integrated to the screen of the computer which sits on the student's desk, so it's impossible to have a full view of their desk at any time. Also there have been privacy concerns raised about this kind of requirement. – Erwan Aug 7 '20 at 23:35
  • Check out the Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitoring, but it is not a live feed to you. – Solar Mike Aug 8 '20 at 6:39
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    I know everyone is doing this, but it will never work. – Anonymous Physicist Aug 8 '20 at 13:56
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    @MassimoOrtolano My students are working on a computer and entering answers there. If I want to see their screen then I have to share screen. Then the students who are in the same room can see each other's screens via shared screen. So If you want to be able to see their screen then only one student can be in a room. Or give as many distinct exams as there are students in a room. 2 student per room then needs 2 distinct exam. – Maesumi Aug 18 '20 at 12:23
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I intend to use no such software, because it does not work (there are many ways to work around it, depending on its complexity), and it is incredibly invasive of student privacy (and the harder to circumvent it is, the more invasive it is).

When you ask students to take exams using software like this, you are asking them to:

  • invite a camera into their home
  • install invasive software that can take substantial control of their computer
  • subject themselves to continuous monitoring, either by a person (looking into their home!) or an AI system
  • if the monitoring is by an AI system, subject themselves to all of its errors and biases, running a nontrivial risk of being falsely flagged as cheating, especially if they are a racial minority, poor (so they have less space for the kind of 'clean' environment the software expects), in any way act in a way the system does not expect (e.g. does a student stare off into the corner when they are thinking? what will the system due with that change in eye contact?)
  • expose their computer to potential security vulnerabilities, because invasive software, that may be employing clever workarounds for operating system features designed to protect the user from software trying to exercise the level of control it demands, probably has some security vulnerabilities of its own

And all of this as a prerequisite for obtaining their education, and the students who want to cheat will find a way to do so anyway. All it accomplishes, in practice, is invading the privacy of honest students.

I believe it is better to structure assessments to disincentivize cheating and/or be robust to it, rather than to subject students to substantial privacy invasion and circumvention of their computers' security in order to try to prevent it.

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    Yes I agree, as mentioned in my post too, I find the automated software that monitors exams not to be effective. However students are already using Blackboard and Zoom and these are not as invasive. There is not much that I dislike more than looking into someones home, but when exam average goes up by 25 points, from in-class to on-line, and we see questionable responses we need to do something. One can make the opposite argument too, by not doing anything about cheating we encourage students who are on the fence to go to the easy side. How do I disincentivize cheating? – Maesumi Aug 18 '20 at 22:23
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    "when exam average goes up by 25 points, from in-class to on-line, and we see questionable responses we need to do something" - it does not follow that supervision software should be used (see: politician's fallacy). – UJM Aug 23 '20 at 8:47

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