Christian Martinez | Staff Writer
With the increase of students taking courses remotely due to COVID-19, Florida Tech debuted the use of outside proctoring software for exams this fall.
The central program Florida Tech uses is called Proctortrack. It is software integrated into Canvas for use during remote exams.
“It locks down your system so that you can only use one window that you’re taking the test on,” John Meyer, director of the Instructional Technology department at Florida Tech, said.
Tests that use Proctortrack require students to download the Proctortrack program, which then hosts the exam in a separate window.
Taking an exam with Proctortrack in place requires the test-taker to use a webcam with a microphone. To even begin an exam, students are required to complete an onboarding process where they present their face at multiple angles as well as their student ID.
The program tracks facial movements and sounds in the room, as well as recording the test session. Students can be flagged for various actions, such as exiting the software or speaking. These flagged items are left for the instructor to review.
When the exam is completed and the submission is uploaded, students are given the option to quit the Proctortrack program or to uninstall it.
“What we suggest faculty do instead of using the proctoring software is to make an open-book test or take-home,” Meyer said, “That’s our preference because it works better than a proctoring software.”
Meyer did note that not every class and test could function that way. Certain subjects might call for students to take exams without references.
Some students have had questions in regards to the capabilities of the program, with privacy concerns in the forefront.
Josie Al-Najim, an astrobiology major, first heard about Proctortrack and similar programs at the beginning of the fall semester. She decided to research what measures other colleges were taking to proctor remote exams.
She said that she and her friends were ready to begin protesting against the invasion of student privacy if they felt, after investigating, that Florida Tech was overstepping boundaries. After being informed about what Proctortrack actually does, she and her friends were delighted.
“I’m ridiculously relieved because I value my privacy immensely,” Al-Najim said, “I’ll still have like [sic] a camera tracking what my hands and my eyes do. But that’s better than a software literally seeing everything I have on my computer and I’ve had this computer since I was 13.”
Al-Najim hasn’t taken any exams or quizzes through Proctortrack. She says that’s because her professors trust their students enough that they don’t need to use it.
She also said that one professor compares their students homework grades to their test scores for any discrepancies. If they don’t align, then the teacher would investigate further.
Al-Najim explained that professors use other methods to look for academic dishonesty, such as investigating significant discrepancies between homework grades and exam grades.
After instructors requested proctoring options in spring of 2020, Instructional Technology searched for suitable proctoring software.
Proctortrack, which was already in use for some Florida Tech Online courses, was deemed the most suitable. Already having the license, the program was rolled out for the fall semester.
Eric Donath, associate director of the IT department, emphasized that all students’ rights to privacy are protected by the law.
Since professors have to opt-in to Proctortrack, it is their responsibility to inform students of the requirements for the software.
“Proctoring requirements will undoubtedly vary from course to course, so expectations will probably be communicated to students on the syllabus,” Donath said. “I hope students recognize the value of honest learning and will appreciate efforts to maintain high standards of academic integrity in each of their courses.”