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AI proctoring won’t stop students from cheating, it is just added stress for students

By Anna BakerSeptember 24, 2020

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Since remote learning started, teachers have been struggling to make class as similar to face-to-face learning as possible. This includes trying to make it hard for students to cheat on online tests. 

Many professors in the U.S. have been using AI proctoring services to curb and catch cheating. These proctor services are not inclusive of all students’ situations, create unnecessary anxiety for students and they may not even be very accurate.

Because of this, schools and professors should refrain from using them.

AI proctoring services like Honorlock and Proctoriorecord video of students taking their test and then use AI to analyze students and recognize behavior that looks like cheating. 

They do this withfacial recognition, detection, and eye tracking. They may also recognize noises that happen in the room and count that as cheating behavior. Cheating behavior can include leaving the camera view for a few seconds as well. 

It makes sense that schools would try to use something to emulate an in person proctored exam. However, there have been a lot of issues with this type of software in terms of inclusivity. 

Many college students at home simply may not have a quiet private space to take a test. Softwares that register sounds as cheating make it difficult for people who have to babysit their kids or siblings during class. 

Many people also may simply not have space in their home for a private quiet room. 

People are at home where the environment is a lot less controlled. It’s not surprising that a mother watching her kids may have to get up from her test to go deal with them or tell them to be quiet but a lot of these softwares would count this as cheating. 

There’s also the issue of race when it comes to these softwares. Some softwares have trouble recognizing darker skin making it more difficult for the AI to analyze every student fairly. Students that don’t have a well lit place to take a test can be penalized too. 

These proctoring softwares also may not even work as well as people think. 

One Brigham Young University professor used Proctorio for his upper level psychology course and two thirds of his studentgot above 90% suspicion rating from the AI on one test. The person who was the least suspicious according to the machine still got 53% suspicion, still over half! 

These services tend to count any eye movement off the screen as suspicion of cheating, when students could just be looking off to think for a second before getting back to the test. 

We’re not punished for staring off into space during tests in person, so why should we be punished for doing it at home? 

Many students also get really bad test anxiety, and the fact that they’re being recorded and analyzed by an AI doesn’t help. 

It’s as if you have someone sitting right in front of you staring up-close your face the entire time you take a test. Wouldn’t that make you feel uncomfortable? 

In fact, one proctoring service like Examity literally has a proctor video chat that analyzes the student’s face and movement during their test, so it literally is a person staring at you. 

Also, these softwares don’t stop cheating. There are hundreds of tips online detailing the ways people can cheat on online tests. If a person wants to cheat, they will. 

Of course, cheating is a problem. But using software that isn’t inclusive to all students, causes unnecessary anxiety, and certainly invades student privacy is not the move. 

Rather, change the conditions of the class to not motivate cheating by building trust in your students and being understanding of their shortcomings this semester. 

Because many people’s homes are not controlled environments like classrooms are, we should stop testing like they are.

Anna Baker is an English junior who can be reached at [email protected]

Tags:AI test proctoring, online education, online learning, online test proctoring, online tests, test, test proctoring, tests


As a privacy-minded computer science student preparing to start his first year at Miami University, Erik Johnson was concerned this fall when he learned that two of his professors would require him to use the digital proctoring software Proctorio for their classes. The software turns students’ computers into powerful invigilators—webcams monitor eye and head movements, microphones record noise in the room, and algorithms log how often a test taker moves their mouse, scrolls up and down on a page, and pushes keys. The software flags any behavior its algorithm deems suspicious for later viewing by the class instructor.

In the end, Johnson never had to use Proctorio. Not long after he began airing his concerns on Twitter and posted a simple analysis of the software’s code on Pastebin, he discovered that his IP address was banned from accessing the company’s services. He also received a direct message from Proctorio’s CEO, Mike Olsen, who demanded that he take the Pastebin posts down, according to a copy of the message Johnson shared with Motherboard. Johnson refused to do so, and is now waiting to see if Proctorio will follow up with more concrete legal action, as it has done to other critics in recent weeks.

“If my professors weren’t flexible, I’d be completely unable to take exams,” Johnson said. “It’s insane to think that a company [or] CEO can affect my academic career just for raising concerns.”

His case is just one example of how college campuses are revolting against the use of digital proctoring software, and the aggressive tactics employed by proctoring companies in response to those efforts. In recent weeks, students have started online petitions calling for universities across the world to abandon the tools, and faculty on some campuses, like the University of California Santa Barbara, have led similar campaigns, arguing that universities should explore new forms of assessment rather than subjecting students to surveillance.

“We need to really think long and hard about how we are adapting,” Jennifer Holt, a film and media studies professor at UCSB, told Motherboard. "We’re supposed to be protecting our students.”

Surveillance at Home

Algorithmic proctoring software has been around for several years, but its use exploded as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to quickly transition to remote learning. Proctoring companies cite studies estimating that between 50 and 70 percent of college students will attempt some form of cheating, and warn that cheating will be rampant if students are left unmonitored in their own homes.

Like many other tech companies, they also balk at the suggestion that they are responsible for how their software is used. While their algorithms flag behavior that the designers have deemed suspicious, these companies argue that the ultimate determination of whether cheating occured rests in the hands of the class instructor. The companies consider the algorithms proprietary and Proctorio, in particular, has reacted swiftly to prevent anyone with access to its training material or underlying code from disclosing their analyses.

“Any plan that calls for schools to just ‘stop using’ proctoring will make cheating more common than it already is, escalating a severe threat to all higher education,” Scott MacFarland, the CEO of ProctorU, another proctoring vendor, wrote in an email to Motherboard. Comparing his product’s deterrent effect to that of more ubiquitous surveillance technology, he added “we may not love the idea of being on camera every time we visit a bank or go to a convenience store, but no one is suggesting taking them down.” 

There is little peer-reviewed evidence about how digital proctoring affects students’ honesty and test-taking ability, and the little research that has delved into the issue doesn’t offer a clear consensus. A 2018 study tracking 2,686 students across 29 courses found that those whose exams weren’t monitored using Proctorio received grades 2.2 percent lower than those whose were. The authors concluded that the results were likely a result of cheating by students not using Proctorio. But a 2019 study involving 631 students found that test takers who felt higher levels of anxiety during exams performed worse, and that the cohort of students monitored by proctoring software felt more anxiety than those who weren’t.

A slide from Proctorio's training materials, detailing how the system measures "suspicion levels" while students take exams.

Students’ and educators’ objections to exam proctoring software go beyond the privacy concerns around being watched and listened to in their bedrooms while they take a test. As more evidence emerges about how the programs work, and fail to work, critics say the tools are bound to hurt low-income students, students with disabilities, students with children or other dependents, and other groups who already face barriers in higher education.

Every day for the last week, Ahmed Alamri has opened ExamSoft and attempted to register for the practice version of the California state bar exam. Every time, the software’s facial recognition system has told him the lighting is too poor to recognize his face. Alamri, who is Arab-American, has attempted to pass the identity check in different rooms, in front of different backgrounds, and with various lighting arrays. He estimates he’s attempted to verify his identity as many as 75 times, with no success. “It just seems to me that this mock exam is reading the poor lighting as my skin color,” he told Motherboard.

Alamri isn't alone. Law students around the country are organizing to fight against the use of any kind of digital proctoring software like ExamSoft on bar exams. In California, two students have filed an emergency petition with the state supreme court requesting that it cancel the exam entirely and institute a new form of assessment. A similar effort is underway in Illinois, while Louisiana, Oregon, and Wisconsin have already scrapped their upcoming bar exams as a result of student pressure. Other states, including New York, are fumbling for solutions as deadlines for the exams quickly approach; at one point, New York's test proctor announced it was going to ban the use of "desktop computers" to take the test.

In their petition, the students say the use of ExamSoft discriminates against people of color because facial recognition technology has been shown on numerous occasions to be worse at recognizing people with darker skin tones, and particularly women of color. The California bar exam would require test takers to verify their identity with facial recognition checks eight separate times, according to the petition, and a single failure would end the test.

The petitioners also conducted a survey of 1,413 law students who were preparing to take the bar exam. “78.8 percent of African-American/Black respondents, 91.7 percent of Alaskan Indian or Native American respondents, 71.5 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander respondents, 81.4 percent of Southwest Asian North African respondents, and 75.9 percent of Latinx, Latino/a, Hispanic respondents” reported that they either would not have reliable internet during the exam, or were unsure whether their connection would be reliable.

“They aren’t taking into consideration people from underprivileged communities,” Alamri said. “This sort of online exam is really measuring a person’s generational wealth and not their knowledge of the law.”


Another major point of contention between proctoring companies and university communities has been the algorithmic techniques the software uses to detect potential cheating.

In training documents Proctorio provides to universities, the company explains that its software determines whether a test-taker’s “suspicion level” at any given moment is low, moderate, or high by detecting “abnormality” in their behavior. If a student looks away from the screen more than their peers taking the same exam, they are flagged for an abnormality. If they look away less often, they are flagged for an abnormality. The same goes for how many keystrokes a student makes while answering a question, how many times they click, and a variety of other metrics. Variation outside the standard deviation results in a flag.

That methodology is likely to lead to unequal scrutiny of people with physical and cognitive disabilities or conditions like anxiety or ADHD, Shea Swauger, a research librarian at the University of Colorado Denver’s Auraria Library who studies educational technology, told Motherboard. “These coders are defining, mathematically, the ideal student body: how often it does, or doesn’t do, these certain attributes, and anything outside of that ideal is treated with suspicion,” he said.

A slide from Proctorio's training materials detailing how the software detects "abnormalities" by analyzing keystroke patterns.

Proctorio and other proctoring companies strongly disagree with that assessment. “The biggest thing is that we’re not making any sort of academic decisions, we’re just providing a quicker way [for teachers] to review places in the exam based on the things they’re looking for,” Olsen, Proctorio’s CEO, told Motherboard in an interview. Teachers can choose which types of behaviors to monitor, and it’s up to them to decide whether an abnormality constitutes cheating, he added.

Students from multiple schools across the US told Motherboard that while teachers ultimately choose whether and how to use exam-monitoring software like Proctorio, they often do so with no guidance or restrictions from the school's administration.

"Each academic department has almost complete agency to design their curriculum as far as I know, and each professor has the freedom to design their own exams and use whatever monitoring they see fit," Rohan Singh, a computer engineering student at Michigan State University, told Motherboard. 

Singh says that students at the school objected after professors began using an exam-monitoring software called Respondus without proper notice at the end of the spring semester, when many universities began converting to online learning. He added that while it's ultimately up to the instructor how the software is used, it generally helps teachers who are predisposed toward doling out Academic Dishonesty Reports, or ADRs. "As a rule of thumb, the professors who choose to use Respondus are the professors more inclined to use their discretion to hand out ADRs," he said.

Nearly a dozen other students told Motherboard that they or their peers had objected to professors' use of exam-monitoring software at other state universities across the US.

In April, Swauger, who is organizing an effort to convince the University of Colorado system to drop Proctorio, published a peer-reviewed article critical of algorithmic proctoring in the journal Hybrid Pedagogy. In response, Proctorio sent a letter to the journal demanding a retraction. The journal’s editors declined. 

The company’s response to Ian Linkletter, a learning technology specialist at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, was even sharper. After Linkletter began sharing Proctorio training videos and documents that explained the company’s abnormality methodology on Twitter, the videos were removed from YouTube, and Proctorio filed for a court injunction to prevent Linkletter from sharing its training material. Linkletter declined to comment for this article due to the pending legal case.

Olsen said Proctorio welcomes public critiques of its service, but takes action when critics share records the company hasn’t made public.

Other proctoring companies have also been litigious when faced with criticism. 

In March, after students approached faculty members at the University of California Santa Barbara, the faculty association sent a letter to the school’s administration raising concerns about whether ProctorU would share student data with third parties. The faculty asked UCSB to terminate its contract with the company and discourage professors from using similar services.

In response, a ProctorU attorney threatened to sue the faculty association for defamation and violating copyright law (because the association had used the company’s name and linked to its website). He also accused the faculty association of “directly impacting efforts to mitigate civil disruption across the United States” by interfering with education during a national emergency, and said he was sending his complaint to the state’s Attorney General.

Although ProctorU never filed a lawsuit against the UCSB faculty association, the threat had a chilling effect on professors’ willingness to discuss the software.

Holt, one of the faculty members who first raised questions about proctoring software, declined to talk to Motherboard specifically about the ordeal or ProctorU. But in general, she remains worried about the spread of proctoring tools on campuses.

“We must do better than subjecting our students to surveillance and violations of their privacy,” she said. “We must do better than allowing algorithmic policing through biometric surveillance as the new normal for education.”

Tagged:SURVEILLANCEalgorithmsmachine learningschool surveillance


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What would you do if you see someone cheating on a test?

What would you do if you see someone cheating on a test?

The best answer would be to verify they cheated somehow and than anonymously tell the professor. If you answer like this they will 100% know it’s completely rehearsed in worthless because no one in real life would do this.

Should you tell the teacher if someone is cheating?

Simply tell the teacher that you didn’t cheat, but you know other people figure out how, and they need to fix it. if they didn’t intend to let them cheat, and don’t fix it, then you tell the principal. To be honest, your teacher probably already knows, but it’s the right thing to do to tell them.

What to say when you get caught cheating on a test?

Just tell him or her the truth as to why you were cheating. The sad thing is that you are probably going to fail this test because you were caught cheating. However, you could try apologizing and telling the teacher the truth as to why you were cheating and ask for another opportunity to take the test.

Can teachers tell if you cheat on an online test?

Myth: It’s impossible for online instructors to identify cheating. However, just as universities who offer online courses certainly do care about academic honesty, so do they put into place mechanisms that can detect different types of cheating in the online setting.

Can Online School detect cheating?

Online Instructors Can’t Recognize Cheating Speaking of Learning Management Systems, if you’re wondering whether or not online instructors can identify online cheating, the answer is: They can. Many of these LMS programs have cheating/plagiarism detection software integrated into them.

How do you know if your Proctorio flagged you?

Click the row of the exam you would like to review. Each exam contains everything you asked Proctorio to record, such as video, audio, screen, and student identity verification. When Proctorio has flagged potentially suspicious activity, these activities will be indicated in red along the recording timeline.

Does Proctorio track eye movement?

Proctorio is VPAT certified, 508 compliant, and fully accessible to those with disabilities. However, the software captures eye, head, and mouth movements, talking to self, pacing, and may flag the use of a screen reader or other devices which may be reported as “suspicious”.

Does Proctorio detect eye movement?

Proctorio does not track eye movements, but we may use facial detection to ensure test takers are not looking away from their exam for an extended period of time.

Does ProctorU notify you if you get flagged?

The instructor is notified via email when the exam has been activated. Exam details and accuracy can be reviewed within the ProctorU administrative account. Details can be changed until 24 hours before the exam start time.

Does someone actually watch you on ProctorU?

Yes, they saw that. ProctorU uses both live proctors and artificial intelligence to watch for changes in the environment and reports back to instructors. The platform will note if users attempt to navigate away from the exam page, open an additional browser window, or attempt to copy and paste from or into the exam.

How does ProctorU know if you’re cheating?

Rather than labeling students “cheaters”, Proctorio provides exam recordings and suspicion ratings for each exam attempt using machine learning and facial recognition technology. The instructor decides whether an action is a violation of academic integrity.

Can Proctoru detect other devices?

And our patented Multi-Device Detection technology may deter them from using cell phones and any other secondary devices to access unauthorized information during remote proctored exams.

How do you cheat on proctored online exams?

The best way to cheat on a proctored exam is to use answer hacking software. This method, of course, cannot work in all scenarios. The only way this can work is if the webcam has been tampered with to ensure that the screen activity is not sent to the proctoring software.

Does Proctorio make you scan the room?

Proctorio aims to mimic an in-class or testing center experience by only allowing the instructor to review student behavior during exams and make all determinations regarding behavior. Q: Why is Proctorio forcing me to do a room scan? A:​ Proctorio has no default settings.

Can Proctorio detect multiple monitors?

Students can’t display multiple apps or programs on same screen. Only one screen: Dual monitors will not be permitted.

How do I scan a room with Proctorio?

Room scans: Hold the camera still on your workspace for at least 10 seconds then continue your room scan of the entire area. Always move your camera slowly around your room. Blurry room scans are not acceptable!

How can I cheat online at home test?

How do students cheat during online exams?

  1. Screen sharing to another computer.
  2. Using advanced electronic devices.
  3. Keeping notes on smartphones and using mobile apps.
  4. Faking identities to get third-party assistance.

What happens in proctored exam?

Proctored exams are timed exams that you take while proctoring software monitors your computer’s desktop, webcam video and audio. The data recorded by the proctoring software is transferred to a proctoring service for review. Proctored exams may or may not be required for your course and enrollment track.

Can you talk during a proctored exam?

Talking aloud: Unless you have an accommodation, talking or whispering aloud during the exam is not permitted.

Can you cheat on ProctorU?

Is Cheating Possible on Online Proctored Exams? That’s a resounding yes. Not only is it possible, but it is also effortless. All these proctored exams have in common that they use a computer program like “Proctor U” to conduct the exam.

Can you eat during a proctored exam?

Can I Have Food Or A Drink During My Exam? ProctorU allows drinks while testing. However, food is generally not permitted as it may cause unnecessary distractions and noise during the exam.

Can Quilgo detect cheating?

The second method of preventing cheating in Google forms is by using Quilgo Timer and proctoring application. Also for camera tracking using Quilgo, you must tell your students how to set the camera so that you could see them looking at their screens with Google quiz opened in front.

15/07/2019Manon WilcoxEducation


What am I allowed and not allowed to do during my exam?


Whether you have a live proctor or not does not change what is allowed during your exam. 

  • If you have a live proctor, he or she may intervene upon any actions or behaviors that are not allowed. 
  • If you do not have a live proctor, your actions and behaviors are being flagged through our artificial intelligence system and will be reviewed by a professional proctor and/or your instructor. 

Actions and behaviors that will be flagged during an exam: 

  1. Talking aloud: Unless you have an accommodation, talking or whispering aloud during the exam is not permitted.
  2. Being out of camera view: Your face, chin to forehead, needs to be in the camera view at all times.
  3. Anyone entering your testing area: You may not have anyone else in your testing location with you.
  4. Anyone talking to you while you’re in your testing area: Additional noises, including other people talking to you, while you’re in your exam are not allowed.
  5. Looking off-screen: If you aren’t allowed any materials, your eyes should stay on the screen at all times while testing.
  6. Utilizing materials that are not allowed: You’re only allowed the permitted materials allowed by your instructor. 
  7. Taking pictures or screenshots of the exam: Taking pictures while in your exam, including screenshots, is not permitted. If you’re on a Mac and have a live human proctored launch, your proctor will even turn off the ability to use your keyboard screenshot hotkeys. 
  8. Copying and pasting any elements of the exam: In most cases, our system will not allow you to copy and paste any content from your exam. Regardless of whether you can or cannot perform this function, our system will capture all events of copy and paste that occur. 
  9. Utilizing a virtual machine: Virtual machines can be detected through the pre-exam system check, and are not permitted. 
  10. Utilizing a secondary monitor: You are only allowed to use one monitor attached to one computer during your exam. 

In some cases, your instructor, institution or organization may specify additional actions/behaviors that are not permitted during your exam. These actions will be explained to you during the portion of the exam launch process when you have to agree to the exam rules. 

Have more questions? Submit a request

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Related articles


Eye movement proctoru

Proctoring by ProctorU Explained

  • Each student proctored by ProctorU has their browser disabled.
  • The system uses AI to watch the students eye movements, head movements, body language and typing patterns throughout the test.
  • The proctor asks the students to pan the room and surroundings with their webcam before the exam to make sure there are no hidden resources available.
  • Proctors will take control of a student's computer at the beginning of the session to input your exam password; this is to ensure students cannot possibly take an exam without a proctor. Students never see the password and you should never share the password with your students.
  • If the student is allowed resources for the test, the proctor asks the student to show it to the camera.
  • The student is required to keep their microphone on as the system 'listens' for unusual and suspicious noises.
  • All sessions are recorded. After the test is over, an individual watches the recording. All sessions are rereviewed. If a suspicious event occurs you will be sent an incident report.
  • ProctorU will never stop an exam session even if it appears the student is cheating. You will be sent a complete incident report with a recommendation from ProctorU on how severe they deem the breach to be. It is the faculty member's responsibility to bring the student up on academic dishonesty charges if a breach occurs. ProctorU will provide you with video evidence and an incident report to back you up.
  • ProctorU CANNOT proctor Chromebooks or tablets. These students must be proctored in Zoom by either you or one of our proctoring staff.
  • Faculty should read the student FAQs provided and email it to their students and/or post it in Moodle.
  • If the faculty member would like extra signage placed in their Moodle area about proctoring, please ask. We are happy to add it.
  • Students should be encouraged to show up for their ProctorU appointments 30 minutes in advance and should verify their equipment is working properly for testing ahead of time. Students see the link to do this several times in the sign-up process.
  • The Facilitator Dashboard provides you with a detailed understanding of your test-takers' proctored sessions.
    • Login to your ProctorU account
    • Navigate to Exams
    • Click on the exam name you would like to view the report for
    • Click on the See More tab

Any questions? Contact Linda Roesch, or call ProctorU directly at 855-772-8678.

There is also a very effective chat option in ProctorU that can be accessed by logging into the Marietta College ProctorU portal and looking for the chat button on the lower right-hand side.

Software Proctored Exam Guide: How To Avoid Academic Dishonesty

Does ProctorU record your face?

Does ProctorU record your face?

Talking aloud: Unless you have an accommodation, talking or whispering aloud during the exam is not permitted. Being out of camera view: Your face, chin to forehead, needs to be in the camera view at all times. Anyone entering your testing area: You may not have anyone else in your testing location with you.

Does ProctorU use a camera?

A camera is required for your exam so the proctor is able to monitor your testing environment. If your camera is not working, try some of the troubleshooting steps below. Quick Tips: The best place to start is to make sure no other program is using the camera.

What is ProctorU compatible with?

ProctorU only supports Mac and PC computers with the following operating systems: PC: Minimum OS: Windows Vista. Recommended OS: Windows 10 (10 S mode is not supported)

Can ProctorU detect phones?

We’re proud to have the industry’s first and only technology to detect cell phone, tablet, and laptop use while a student is taking an assessment.

Can ExamSoft detect cheating?

We empower our clients with data and reporting as well as audio and visual evidence (which can help both the exam-taker and the exam administrator), but ExamSoft does not determine whether or not an exam-taker has cheated.

Does Examsoft always record you?

ExamMonitor records video and audio of Exam Takers during secure assessments, which are uploaded upon assessment completion and reviewed for potential breaches of academic integrity.

Does Examplify track eye movement?

The features of Proctorio include tracking your eye movement, shutting down your access to tabs and disabling your use of a printer. There is one more feature which is the most invasive of all: it records you.

Does Examsoft tell you if you get flagged?

No, the test-taker is never notified by Examity of their flags.

Does lockdown browser tell you if you are flagged?

However, when using Respondus’ Lock Down Browser and Monitor you will be able to review specific statistics, incident flags, and video regarding the students attempt. Flagged events are when the student left the screen, a different student was seen on the screen or multiple people were visible on the screen.

Does Examplify track IP address?

For purposes of support, accountability, quality control, and exam-related assistance, ExamSoft shall have the right to collect certain information, whether from Exam Taker or exam administrator (including, but not limited to, photograph, IP address, name, email, user ID, makes and models of computers used by Exam …

What is exam soft?

ExamSoft is a secure testing solution that is used for high stakes exams. This software enables secure testing on student computers by blocking access to programs, files and Internet usage during the test. The client (vendor) used for testing students is Examplify.

Does LockDown browser tell you if you are flagged?

How do I know if Examplify is recording?

Navigate to System Preferences>Security & Privacy>Screen Recording. Locate Examplify and ensure you have a checkmark enabling the application.

Is Examplify the same as ExamSoft?

ExamSoft is a web-based portal that requires an internet connection to access. Examplify is an application downloaded to a computer that ensures students can complete an assessment in a stable and offline environment.


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