Paying to pass
Students unhappy with required online testing system
Students expect to pay for textbooks and supplies before the semester begins.
But many were surprised to find out they’d have to start paying for UB’s new online testing system, ProctorU.
ProctorU, introduced to the UB curriculum this year, allows students to take exams off campus and is intended to alleviate the stress of an exam by letting students take their tests in a comfortable space. In some classes, it’s required. But many students are critical of the system as ProctorU charges students $15 per test and, if students don’t schedule exams 72 hours before the due date, they’re responsible for additional fees.
There are also technical requirements for the program to work, including a proper webcam, a compatible computer and strong internet connection. ProctorU requires online proctors to monitor students through webcam as the proctor gains screen-sharing access, requires students to show their testing location and ensures no one else is present. Students also have to clean their rooms so there are no resources in sight.
Morgan Lennon, a junior business major, doesn’t understand why she has to pay additional fees to take tests for classes she already paid for.
“It’s bulls––t,” Lennon said. “If they want me to take a test, they shouldn’t have me pay extra for it if I already had to pay to take the course.”
UB believes online proctoring tools, like those ProctorU provides, “are important in maintaining UB’s fundamental value of academic integrity in the teaching and learning process,” according to UB spokesperson Kate Mckenna.
Mckenna said online proctoring services are selected on a “departmental level” and hope to provide “additional exam-taking flexibility for online/remote learners.” She said some departments are considering alternative platforms to find the best option for students from a “functionality and cost standpoint,” and “most” students still have the option to take their exam in a classroom.
Dianna Cichocki, a professor of management science and systems, implemented ProctorU in her courses because she thought it would be beneficial to students. She isn’t sure whether students like it yet and says she’ll have a better idea after the end of the semester.
“I like the idea that students have the ability to take their exams in a location that might be more conducive than a large lecture hall with hundreds of students,” Cichocki said. “This option allows students the possibility to complete their exam in the same location where they study and complete their homework. This can increase comfort levels and ease anxiety during exams.”
But, some students say they feel ProctorU invades their privacy.
Madison Colwin, a senior communication major, said her instructors didn’t explain the system’s requirements and she wasn’t ready to have her room inspected by the online proctor.
“It came as a shock to me when I had someone come on a Skype-type of video chat with me and had them scan my room,” Colwin said. “I was so uncomfortable during my whole exam, I just felt like their eyes were on me. And I didn’t like how the [proctor] had complete access to my computer screen.”
The exam room needs to be “tidy” and “clear of any items hanging on the wall in front of you,” according to the program’s website. The student has to show the proctor the “whole room,” which means students must scan the room with their webcam. If the room doesn’t meet the proctor’s standards, the proctor will ask the student to clean the room.
Test-takers also need to be alone in the room in order to take the test. If somebody is in the exam room when the proctor inspects it, the person will be required to leave in order for the test to proceed, according to UB’s UProctor portal.
Students are also responsible for providing the minimum quality of equipment they need to access the program.
Minimum technical requirements include a webcam with 640x480 resolution, Windows Vista or Mac OS X 10.5 or higher, internet download speed of 0.768 Mbps and more. If students don’t have the equipment they need, they may need to purchase it on their own.
Google Chromebooks, Android tablets, iOS tablets and Linux operating systems are some platforms that are incompatible with ProctorU, whose website offers a test for students to make sure their device is up to the system’s standards.
Lennon said she tested her equipment before an exam but when it was time to take the exam, her equipment failed.
“It wasn’t my fault that it crashed and I did everything the program said I had to do,” Lennon said. “I just thought it wasn’t right.”
Lennon is grateful her professor allowed her to reschedule the exam, even if it meant paying an additional fee.
Other online testing sites like Top Hat or Cengage offer testing platforms for flat rates ranging $30-100.
But many students say they don’t see the need for online testing at all.
Nate Diaz, a senior business major, misses “old-fashioned” methods and wishes his tests were administered in class.
“I like [taking tests] in person better because there isn’t a sense of someone hovering over me while I’m taking my exam,” Diaz said. “In class, you know everyone else is doing what you’re doing.”
Ashley Guglielmo is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com.
Julian Roberts-Grmela is a features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @GrmelaJulian.