The EdTech universe is abuzz this week with excitement and trepidation about the direction of anti-cheating video monitoring in higher education.


This emerging category includes web-cameras paired with facial-recognition software. The manufacturers and adopters of these systems hope to remove (or reduce the usage of) live proctors from the exam equation, ensuring the legitimacy of online test-taking, and further automate the higher education experience.


Take the example of ProctorU, the Birmingham, Alabama-based video monitoring company. ProctorU lets students connect with live proctors, either in person or through web-cams. In a three-step process, test-takers log-in, the proctors verify students’ identities via ID cards, while the system monitors their computer activity. What’s the result? A cheating-free online exam, according to the company.


I’ve used online exams software of this ilk in the past, and it’s clear that the new ProctorU UCard is a vast improvement over earlier iterations. There is no doubt that it will offer value and myriad benefits for test-takers, especially in remote locations. But are we really to believe that the presence of a webcam, a 360-degree pan to make sure no one is hiding a cell phone, and an honorable request to show the student’s ID card will quell the age-old desire to cheat? I’m skeptical. Not everyone wants to be watched by their web-camera during an exam, either. There are also privacy concerns; this video feed needs to be rock-solid to ensure no hackers can steal test-takers’ confidential information and/or social security numbers.


My EdTech skepticism is rooted in pragmatism. Technology cannot supplant every single aspect of higher educational experience, nor should it. Call me old-fashioned, but isn’t there a life skill in learning that you need to show up for a test on time, out in the “real world?”


This EdTech Magazine article explains how ProctorU works and who is using the system in the pilot phase. Watch the video to see for yourself.


This New York Times article drills down into the details of other anti-cheating products, such as Proctortrack, which requires students and test-takers to sit in an upright position, facing the web-cam.


Margot Douaihy is Editorial Director of AV Technology, Tech Manager Today, EDUwire, and On/Off Campus.

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