13

I am taking an online course and it has 2 summative assessment exams and a final exam. However, since it is an online course, it says I am required to use Proctorio to ensure no cheating occurs, which is a browser extension.

So naturally I looked it up quickly and instantly saw all the bad reviews of these online proctoring apps. Proctorio on the web store has 1.1 star review ratings, and there are some articles online about these online proctoring extensions being "spyware" and even sued.

But since this is a fully online course, I have to take it anyways. Is proctorio really that bad, and if so, is there anything I can do to minimize any potential harm done to myself or my computer? Or have these bugs and issues been fixed already? (as a lot of these articles and news seem to be from 2020-2022 in the pandemic)

Other information:

  • It requires me to do a full room scan
  • My face should be visible on camera at all times
  • Microphone should be on at all times
  • Before the exam starts you need to show your ID
  • Screen is to be shared at all times
  • Proctorio requires “Read and change all your data on the websites you visit” permission
8
  • 4
    I wonder who are submitting the bad reviews ... the professors or the students?
    – GEdgar
    Mar 1 at 21:22
  • 2
    It may be helpful for you to express your concerns to the online course administrators. They may not be aware of these reviews, and other students may have concerns. This may improve the situation in the future. Mar 2 at 9:12
  • 9
    @GEdgar The bad reviews are there because the extension is able to see and monitor all you activities. That is a major privacy problem. This is bad regardless of whether you are a student or a professor. The bad reviews are not about the ability of the extension to do what it is supposed to do but rather about the side effects.
    – quarague
    Mar 2 at 18:17
  • 2
    For some more issues, see Cory Doctorow's summary of some of the issues (on his own site, as I don't have a Medium account, where it's also published). He tends to cite sources, if you dig into the older reports. A lot of the issues aren't software bugs but conceptual problems
    – Chris H
    Mar 2 at 20:49
  • 2
    I’m not suggesting cross posting per se, but there is an information security stack that also might have some good info on using browser extensions safely. Mar 3 at 22:45

3 Answers 3

22

It's unfortunate that we seem to have to trade our privacy and security for a decent education (or anything at all these days).

I agree with Ethan that using another computer is the best bet. Since it sounds like that won't work from your comments.

  1. Use your computer's operating system to create a new non-administrator user. For bonus points, you can use an operating system that runs from a USB stick without being installed on your computer, like Ubuntu.
  2. Log into the new user and download Chrome.
  3. Install the browser extension. Allow microphone and camera access.
  4. Use the new user's browser to take whatever test you need.
  5. Log out of the user and go back to using your computer normally.
  6. For bonus points, delete the new user's profile as soon as you're done.
1
  • 1
    Sorry in the comments I said I can't use a public computer, but I do have another spare computer to use. But this answer is helpful too, thanks!
    – DialFrost
    Mar 2 at 0:28
7

There is probably not much you can do. Here are some suggestions.

You might have a computer you can use just for this task, then wipe clean.

Enter no information other than that needed to identify you to the instructor.

If the app needs to watch you, check the background the camera sees.

If the app is browser based, can you use a public computer somewhere quiet?

4
  • Thanks! I added some extra information to my question, a public computer wouldn't work here as it would have background noise. (I do have a spare computer though that I can wipe)
    – DialFrost
    Mar 2 at 0:29
  • 3
    Rather than use another computer, you can use Sandboxie to isolate the browser from the rest of the system. Or run a VM. Mar 2 at 8:31
  • 3
    I suspect that if a proctoring system can detect that it is running on a VM then it would regard that as breaking the terms of the invigilation as it would not be able to see what was happening on the computer as a whole. Mar 2 at 15:06
  • 1
    @DikranMarsupial I'm absolutely sure I've read that somewhere. I have a feeling they object to live Linux (or Linux at all?)
    – Chris H
    Mar 2 at 20:43
-10

No, you don't need to be worried.

If you sat an exam in a traditional setting you would expect to be watched and have your behaviour monitored. Proctorio is doing is the same thing. That does mean that it's running on your computer, so you will want to make sure your email is shut, notification are off, etc. - but you should be doing that anyway. And it will be able to see if you're opening other webpages; but the rules of the exam probably say you can't do that anyway. Staff chosen by the institution will be able to see you and the room you are sat in; this seems to me to be unavoidable if exams sat online are to be invigilated at all.

Treat the experience like being sat in a physical exam hall under invigilated conditions, and you'll be fine.

There is a legitimate concern about technical issues using the plug-in but Proctorio does include a pre-exam check that should ensure everything is fine; obviously this can't help with, e.g., your internet going down but that's an inherent problem with online exams it is up to your institution to handle.

The Proctorio plug-in won't collect anything except during the exam, when you directly switch in on, but if you're worried at all just disable it when you're not actually sitting an exam.

16
  • 6
    How do you know that the Proctorio plug-in doesn't collect data when it is not supposed to?
    – Arno
    Mar 2 at 14:09
  • 6
    @JackAidley that is kind of the point, you have a choice about what software you install on your own computer, but in this case the OP is being coerced into installing something that they have concerns about. I suspect proctoring software is likely to be a much bigger security risk than most software that a user will install because it will require much higher access privileges than is needed by most programs. Mar 2 at 15:03
  • 5
    "If you sat an exam in a traditional setting you would expect to be watched and have your behaviour monitored. Proctorio is doing is the same thing." This is a weird statement. In a regular exam, one is being watched in a university/school owned examination room. As an examiner during Corona, I've seen dining rooms, bedrooms, friend-I'm-staying-at-rooms wink, tidied-only-for-the-camera-but-then-they-had-to-move-that-camera-rooms, with pictures of family, personal items, and even room mates; and that's just what the camera captures. The scope of "being watched" is absolutely not comparable. Mar 3 at 7:16
  • 5
    Proctorio is also more like having the invigilator standing in front of your desk staring intently at your face for the whole exam, which is very different from a normal invigilation. Mar 3 at 12:01
  • 5
    @DikranMarsupial Not to mention that the invigilator is not just staring at you, but recording your every movement, and sharing the recording with any third parties "required for services pertaining to invigilation". Oh, and the recording is done using your camera (but you have essentially no control overhow your camera is used). Mar 3 at 23:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .