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Instructors And School Administrators Are Somehow Managing To Make Intrusive Testing Spyware Even Worse

from the by-the-time-they're-done,-no-one's-going-to-want-to-go-back-on-campus dept

The COVIDian dystopia continues. After a brief respite, infections and deaths have surged, strongly suggesting the "we're not doing anything about it" plan adopted by many states is fattening the curve. With infections spreading once again, the ushering of children back to school seems to have been short-sighted.

But not all the kids are in school. Some are still engaged in distance learning. For many, this means nothing more than logging in and completing posted assignments using suites of tools that slurp up plenty of user data. For others, it feels more being forced to bring their schools home. In an effort to stop cheating and ensure "attendance," schools are deploying spyware that makes the most of built-in cameras, biometric scanning, and a host of other intrusions that make staying home at least as irritating as actually being in school.

The EFF covered some of these disturbing developments back in August, when some schools were kicking off their school years. Bad news abounded.

Recorded patterns of keystrokes and facial recognition supposedly confirm whether the student signing up for a test is the one taking it; gaze-monitoring or eye-tracking is meant to ensure that students don’t look off-screen too long, where they might have answers written down; microphones and cameras record students’ surroundings, broadcasting them to a proctor, who must ensure that no one else is in the room.

So much for the sanctity of the home -- the location regarded as the most private of private spaces, worthy of the utmost in Fourth Amendment protections. Unfortunately, the tradeoff for distance learning appears to mean students must give up almost all of their privacy in exchange for not being arrested for truancy.

School isn't out yet. And there's even more intrusiveness to report. It's not just the stripping of privacy that's adding to the dystopian atmosphere hovering oppressively over 2020. It's also the Kafka+Orwell aspects of at-home monitoring, as Todd Feathers and Janus Rose report for Vice.

The first part of this aligns with the EFF's earlier reporting: exam software developers are giving school administrators an insane amount of access to students' devices.

Like its competitors in the exam surveillance industry, Respondus uses a combination of facial detection, eye tracking, and algorithms that measure “anomalies” in metrics like head movement, mouse clicks, and scrolling rates to flag students exhibiting behavior that differs from the class norm.

Then it just gets surreal.

These programs also often require students to do 360-degree webcam scans of the rooms in which they’re testing to ensure they don’t have any illicit learning material in sight.

Not surreal enough for Respondus and its customers, apparently. Instructions vary from school to school, but Wilfrid Laurier University students are given an entire gauntlet to run through just for the privilege of taking a test. One set of instructions seems to ask students to roll the dice on permanently damaging their ears.

[O]ne WLU professor wrote that anyone who wished to use foam noise-cancelling ear plugs must “in plain view of your webcam … place the ear plugs on your desk and use a hard object to hit each ear plug before putting it in your ear—if they are indeed just foam ear plugs they will not be harmed.”

And there's so much more! Instructors are taking the intrusiveness baked into Respondus' exam spyware and adding their own twists. If these weren't tied to education products, one might assume sexual predators were on the prowl. (One might still assume that, perhaps not even incorrectly. We'll see how this all shakes out!)

Other instructors required students to buy hand mirrors and hold them up to their webcams prior to beginning a test to ensure they hadn’t written anything on the webcam.

Not every instructor is adding more evil. Some seem to be concerned about the software itself -- mainly its reliability and its willingness to see everything unexpected as cheating. But it's not much less dystopian to advise students on how best to ensure the school's spyware functions properly during tests. Advice from profs includes telling students to keep everyone else at home off the internet while testing (presumably so no one pings out while submitting answers) and to avoid sitting in front of posters or decorations featuring people or animals so the spyware won't flag them for having other people in the room during a test.

And it's not just Canada. An email sent by an instructor at Arkansas Tech told students to engage in a whole bunch of pre-test setup just to assure this small-minded prof they weren't cheating.

Before beginning an exam, students were required to hold a mirror or their phone's front-facing camera to reflect the computer screen, and then adjust the webcam so the instructor can "see your face, both hands, your scratch paper, calculator, and the surface of your desk," according to an email obtained by Motherboard.

If students failed to jump through all these distance learning hoops, the instructor would "set [their] exam score to 0%."

The coupling of intrusive spyware with increasingly ridiculous demands from instructors has led to open, if mostly remote, revolt. Petitions have been circulated demanding software like this be banned. Feedback sites like ratemyprofessor have been bombed with negative reviews. Unfortunately, the schools have almost all the leverage. It's not that simple to take your "being educated" business elsewhere, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.

That's not to say there haven't been any successes. Blowback from Wilfrid Laurier students forced the Canadian university to withdraw its demand that students set up their own in-home surveillance system by purchasing both an external webcam and a tripod. And some school administrators are at least responding with statements that indicate they recognize the people paying their salaries are unhappy. WLU administrators are promising to "look into" the reported problems, but it seems unlikely it will ditch its proctoring software. What it may do is clarify what instructors can actually ask students to do, which would address at least some of the complaints.

But half-assing it isn't going to change the intrusive nature of the software itself. But, as noted earlier, students already well on their way to degrees or diplomas can't just head to the nearest competitor. And there's a good chance the nearest competitor is using something similar to reduce cheating, which means students will be jumping through one set of hoops just to find themselves jumping through another set at another school.

This pandemic isn't going to be forever. If it's in the best interests of everyone to remain as distanced as possible, schools just need to accept the fact that cheating may be a bit more common. Accepting the reality of the situation would be healthier for everyone. Making a bad situation even worse with pervasive surveillance and insane instructions from administrators is the last thing students (and teachers) need right now.

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Filed Under: covid, facial recognition, keystrokes, schools, spyware, surveillance, testing
Companies: respondus


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 3:46pm

    'I would absolutely cheat as a teacher so I expect the same.'

    Ignoring for a second the huge privacy concerns it's nice of them to make it undeniably clear that they believe that their students are one and all grossly dishonest people who will absolutely jump at any chance to cheat if given even the most minute of opportunities, as that's definitely the sort of healthy relationship built upon trust and respect between students and teachers that you want to see.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Tom pain, 17 Nov 2020 @ 6:49pm

      Re: 'I would absolutely cheat as a teacher so I expect the same.

      What do you expect from those who can’t do?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 4:08am

        Re: Re: 'I would absolutely cheat as a teacher so I expect the s

        Can't do what?

        I assume this is just another weak attempt to slam teachers everywhere, based upon the unsupported claim that teachers are unable to get a real job in the real world doing real stuff for real people ... what an old an tired out bullshit dog whistle.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:11am

          Re: Re: Re: 'I would absolutely cheat as a teacher so I expect t

          It's usually the mantra of people who believe that money means so much more than anything else, thus turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy - after all, if you make teaching a low paid and high pressure vocation, only the people who believe in the calling above money will stay. People who care more about money than pupils will go.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:23am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 'I would absolutely cheat as a teacher so I expe

            Yeah, some think that being well to do implies intelligence.

            I'm rich, therefore I'm smart ... is complete bullocks.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Michael, 18 Nov 2020 @ 3:35pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 'I would absolutely cheat as a teacher so I expe

            As someone who's worked at a university for decades, I assure you it has nothing to do with money.

            Rather, it's the fact that the curriculum to become a teacher is among the least rigorous possible. I've done research with education students and had many tell me that they've never written a research paper, and never read a book after high school. These people are consistently bottom of the barrel.

            Getting a teaching degree is like falling off a log, and it shows in the terrible outcomes produced by the US education system.

            I'd love for teachers to be among the highest paid people in the country, but until we make some demands on them to have some level of intellectual rigor, that would just mean throwing good money after bad.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 9:56pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 'I would absolutely cheat as a teacher so I

              "Rather, it's the fact that the curriculum to become a teacher is among the least rigorous possible."

              Is that something that's always been? Or, have poor pay and conditions been around for so long that the better people in the job just aren't bothering to try?

              I've seen this in many companies in the private sector. They get talented hard working professionals, then pile on the hours, invest nothing in development, cut budgets and freeze salaries for years on end. Then, those professionals get sick of it and leave, the now low pay and outdated equipment doesn't attract the same calibre of worker and they have to lower hiring standards just to get warm bodies through the door.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:50am

      Re: 'I would absolutely cheat as a teacher so I expect the same.

      It is really quite a simple answer.
      These proffessors, aka instructors not teachers, assume everyone cheats because they themselves cheated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2020 @ 4:43pm

    Online Proctoring has basically failed at my institution because it's not equitable. Not all students have webcams, not all students have access to highspeed connections, not all students have living conditions that they want to be seen by instructors or third party proctors. They tried multiple different proctoring services, but they all have some kind of technical issue for some of the students, and it's inequitable to force some students to use it and others not to, and the ones without working systems in place have no alternatives since campuses are closed.

    The real solution that the instructors don't want to hear is that they should test students on understanding and not on memorization.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TripMN (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 9:27pm

      Re:

      This! We are in a place in history where information is literally a phone away. Can't remember who the 14th president is? Google that shit. Need to know what the density of water or Planck's constant are, you can look them up. Allowing for getting the easy information from the giant information system we all now use would require test creators to write tests that aren't about rote memorization, but maybe that's the point. The people creating these things are still stuck in the days before the internet and are still stuck in the bizarre land where memorization is more important than understanding and application. It's bizarre because that's not how the real world works at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:17am

        Re: Re:

        "Need to know what the density of water or Planck's constant are, you can look them up"

        OK. Now, perform a calculation using those things in a way that demonstrates you understand what they mean. Gets more complicated, doesn't it?

        "The people creating these things are still stuck in the days before the internet"

        Or, perhaps, they're testing for things that aren't available via a Google search, and would rather their pupils not be copying someone else's answers without getting to the understand of the subject they're being tested on.

        "It's bizarre because that's not how the real world works at all."

        No, the real world expects you to understand how to use information, not just regurgitate something that someone else did. If you want to know why there's so much buggy software out there, it's likely because there's so many "software developers" who just Google something and copy the first StackOverflow result they find without understanding what the code they just committed actually does. God help you if you need help from a recent graduate of your described school who has to work in a facility with poor wifi or has to understand why what they just copypastaed doesn't give them the desired results.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:22am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Or, another real world example - if you have a tech problem, who would you prefer to answer the support call? Someone running from a pre-written script who has no understand of what they're supporting other than what they have written and gets stuck the moment something not on the script comes up? Or, someone properly trained who can think outside the box and come up with a solution to your actual problem? You're advocating that you only get the former.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 4:57pm

    IMO

    Lets see if they can handle.
    CREATE a computer that the KIDS can use at home.
    Do what ever you want, but supply it so they can USE IT.
    You shouldnt need a HUGE powerful machine, and I think Google might even supply TONS of them for you. Love those NET BOOKS. Chrome RULES, esp if they change it to Android.(FINALLY)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2020 @ 5:13pm

    The basic problem here...

    ... is that schools have entirely abandoned the education business in favor of the credential business. In this they are encouraged by employers who've decided (and been allowed to decide) that every job requires some largely irrelevant credential.

    If it were really about education, then there'd be no real point in cheating.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 17 Nov 2020 @ 6:04pm

    School administrators in general could fuck up a wet dream. No surprise here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TheDumberHalf, 17 Nov 2020 @ 6:21pm

    Then later schools call the parents and ask why they pulled their kid out of school in favor of pod-learning.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 8:47pm

    Well the companies selling the snakeoil went right for the fears of the idiots in administration.
    Without our product people will look at your degrees issued during this time as being less than. We can't have our schools reputation harmed, even if we're actively destroying it ourselves.

    Cheating ZOMG!!!!!!
    Thats right up there next to murdering people, thats why we have to be so super strict. We can't possibly treat them like adults who if they fake taking tests will be caught by their own ignorance on subjects they tested on.

    In the middle of a pandemic the only thing that seemed to matter was getting tuition & then making students pay for the privilege of being spied upon.

    I mean its not like the spyware used for several state bar exams screwed those taking the tests over by leaking data, a breach, oh and threatening them with complaints to harm their chance of passing the ethics check by the bar.... oh wait.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    B. I. O'Hazard, 17 Nov 2020 @ 8:49pm

    You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

    You have inside info on this?

    This pandemic isn't going to be forever.

    Because Bill Gates and other world leaders say the world is changed forever, Fauci says we'll need doses of the "vaccine" every six months, and other stories say even having COVID doesn't give immunity, can get it again. -- It'll mutate and others will be along too. You'll never again be allowed to go bare face in public. Just get used to it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      B. I. O'Hazard, 17 Nov 2020 @ 8:50pm

      Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

      If it's in the best interests of everyone to remain as distanced as possible,

      What do you mean "IF"? You're one of those doubters who don't want to "do as you're told". -- Just TAKE the vaccine and quit spreading misinformation. But you're probably an anti-vaxxer too, so the gov't will just have to cut off your income until you comply.

      schools just need to accept the fact that cheating may be a bit more common.

      "Cheating" is an elitist white supremacist notion. The poor and especially people of color must do what need against the class system that shuts them out with hurtful hateful words like yours and other haters.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      B. I. O'Hazard, 17 Nov 2020 @ 8:50pm

      Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

      Accepting the reality of the situation would be healthier for everyone.

      Wait a sec. YOU just refused to accept reality by doubting that the pandemic even exists and that "distanced" works.

      Making a bad situation even worse with pervasive surveillance and insane instructions from administrators is the last thing students (and teachers) need right now.

      Irrelevant. We've got to lockdown fully to survive this existential threat to the human species or no one has any future at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      B. I. O'Hazard, 17 Nov 2020 @ 8:51pm

      Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

      And if think I'm being facetious, you're wrong as usual. EVERY point is just what I've read.

      You'd better brace for the necessary measures to stop this virus. In Europe (besides New York City), they're already up to police enforcement limiting to a few miles from home. You soon won't be able to go anywhere without proof of vaccination. It's ON, kids.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        AC Unknown (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 10:45pm

        Re: Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

        Do kindly go away with your rot.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 10:57pm

        Re: Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

        "You soon won't be able to go anywhere without proof of vaccination"

        Americans already aren't allowed most places and are subject to strict quarantine if you do. Plague rats need to stay where they are if they refuse to be treated for the plague.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2020 @ 11:06pm

        Re: Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

        First time in ages i have bothered red-flagging any posts that weren't commercial spam or cover posts. Mostly because you can't just post once. You think of something clever 10 seconds later and just have to post again.

        Just another sign of your disorganized mind, you wackaloon, you incompetent authoritarian propagandist.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 19 Nov 2020 @ 2:10am

        Re: Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

        "You soon won't be able to go anywhere without proof of vaccination."

        In a time where a pandemic has placed over 200k americans into early graves that's somehow understandable.

        And no, no sane person would want a plague rat on their premises. Get back to your bunker in the woods where "society" isn't a thing if you insist on being a clear and present danger to other people.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 17 Nov 2020 @ 10:54pm

      Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

      "Because Bill Gates and other world leaders say the world is changed forever, Fauci says we'll need doses of the "vaccine" every six months,"

      I'm sure you can provide quotes on these?

      "other stories say even having COVID doesn't give immunity, can get it again. -- It'll mutate and others will be along too."

      ...and medical technology will also improve so that we won't be caught out by the same kind of novel outbreak again, and both vaccine and natural human immunity can catch up to where we are with things like the flu. The two things that have made this pandemic what it is are the new nature of the disease and the rampant idiocy of the people who refuse to do what's needed to give short-term protection to all the people they keep killing.

      "You'll never again be allowed to go bare face in public"

      If your external self is as pretty as your internal self, that's probably a good thing in your case.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 19 Nov 2020 @ 2:15am

      Re: You're a Superspreader of Dangerous Misinformation

      "...other stories say even having COVID doesn't give immunity, can get it again. -- It'll mutate and others will be along too."

      Much as it was with the flu, the common cold, measles and any other disease to fill mass graves before humanity developed partial immunity, medical knowledge, and a watchdog system ensuring we would have vaccines for the more dangerous strains, yes.

      Covid right now kills a LOT of people, same way the 1918 flu did. Eventually it will mutate into a form which mainly doesn't kill its host.

      "You'll never again be allowed to go bare face in public."

      Oh, look! A straw man riding a hyperbole. Not something you see every day.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 12:52am

    One size fits none

    Advice from profs includes telling students to keep everyone else at home off the internet while testing (presumably so no one pings out while submitting answers) and to avoid sitting in front of posters or decorations featuring people or animals so the spyware won't flag them for having other people in the room during a test.

    And those kids that are using Taco Bell and McDonald's wifi to connect? What about them? They're screwed? These people don't care? That's fairly obvious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 1:00am

    And this doesn't even take into consideration the racist nature of the facial recognition algorithms in use by this spyware. One only needs to look at Twitter's cropping failures (which they've since addressed) to see an example of what I'm talking about there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    genghis_uk (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 3:17am

    It can't be beyond their capability to change exams to open book and just let the students get on with it.
    Log into your exam and after eg. 3 hours, it stops accepting input.

    No tracking required and the exam is more relevant to modern life (looking things up as another comment suggested).

    It amazes me that everyone seems to be able to change how they work and modify their behaviour except academia. In the UK they are talking about dropping exams altogether and relying on coursework - I am split on that one as it could bias against a good student who gets no help at home...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:28am

      Re:

      "It can't be beyond their capability to change exams to open book and just let the students get on with it. "

      In the real world, there is no such thing as a closed book job so why have closed book tests?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 6:32am

        Re: Re:

        "In the real world, there is no such thing as a closed book job"

        In the real world, you're expected to actually know things in your job rather than just Google every answer.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 9:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Pilots are expected to know a few memory items, intended to get to a safe state, and thereafter use checklists to work through problems. Also, competent engineers look up every parameter and conversion factor, every time the use them, as it is all too easy to misremember such details.

          Libraries and templates in programming exist because programmers make mistakes at the detail level, and are equivalent to looking up the answer. How to gather specifications, carry out the analysis, and come up why a system architecture on the other hand requires real knowledge that goes beyond looking up the answer.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 10:06am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Indeed

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 10:18am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Also, competent engineers look up every parameter and conversion factor, every time the use them, as it is all too easy to misremember such details."

            I would hope not every detail, not least because there is such a thing as a faulty resource. More than one major disaster has been caused by people making assumptions on a basic lookup (e.g. one team using metric and the other using imperial without either questioning what the other was doing).

            If all you're doing is blindly looking stuff up, you make mistakes due to you not questioning the resource, which is something that having basic knowledge yourself helps identify.

            "Libraries and templates in programming exist because programmers make mistakes at the detail level"

            No, they exist because it's pointless to reinvent the wheel every time you need to do something and it's better to build on what others have done.

            "How to gather specifications, carry out the analysis, and come up why a system architecture on the other hand requires real knowledge that goes beyond looking up the answer."

            Yes, which is why it's important to have people capable of doing such things, rather than people who have been trained to google everything.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 10:49am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Google is not a lot of help for generic question, like how to carry out analysis, or at least not if you do not have weeks in which to carry out research into analysis. However given a specific question, related to what you are trying to do, like the definitions of the trig rations, when trying to solve a triangle, it is useful (Hint I can remember sine, but usually have to look up the others because I do not use them often). Note however you need to know that you want the trig ratios to initiate the search.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 9:52pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Yes, there's no problem using Google to search for some piece of missing knowledge in the context of trying to do something larger, but that's not what's being discussed here.

                What's being implied in comments here is that student shouldn't be expected to hold any knowledge that they could just look up on Google, from the basics up. That's a big problem.

                There's no problem me using Google to quickly calculate a subnet or grab a BASH script to achieve something. What separates me as a professional from a woeful amateur is that if I'm faced with an offline server in a basement DC with no wifi, I can still do the job without Google. The ideas promoted above suggest that a person should not be expected to have that ability.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 19 Nov 2020 @ 3:05am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  In a lot of jobs pre-google, the amount of reference material required was measured in yards of bookshelves. A library area was part of all professional work places. Google has largely replaced that library, but not the need to check details.

                  As has been suggested on this article, open book exams are better than memorization tests for discovering if someone has any ability, and they also solve the problem of administering them remotely, because they do not need such intrusive proctoring.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    PaulT (profile), 19 Nov 2020 @ 4:53am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    "A library area was part of all professional work places. Google has largely replaced that library, but not the need to check details."

                    Except, in the mind of the lazy or ignorant, it has. There's a lot more you can find through Google than you'd find in any reference library, and if you're testing for any knowledge at all it's a nonsensical idea to give students free reign over it.

                    The internet isn't just a reference library. It's also home to a wealth of misinformation, a lot of corner-cutting cowboys, and material designed to allow the reader to put as little thought as possible into the work. You might be able to weed out the people who fall for the lies, but if someone can pass the exam without understanding anything they're doing, you do a disservice both to the student and the workforce they go to.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 18 Nov 2020 @ 5:09am

    "It can't be beyond their capability to change exams to open book and just let the students get on with it.
    Log into your exam and after eg. 3 hours, it stops accepting input."

    It depends on what the exam is. I'm sure that most teachers don't want to deal with a bunch of papers that are slightly reworded copies of the first Google result.

    "the exam is more relevant to modern life "

    Nope. The purpose of a real education is not memorising things and jotting them down on an exam paper. The real purpose is (or at least should be) to teach methods and critical thinking. That's why maths exams tend to give only a small amount of their overall points to the actual answer, and to give weight to the way in which the answer was calculated.

    "It amazes me that everyone seems to be able to change how they work and modify their behaviour except academia"

    Everyone? You must have different colleagues and managers than I've experienced, let alone the third party companies I've had to deal with, and I'm speaking as someone who works for a much more prepared company than a few I've had in the past.

    "In the UK they are talking about dropping exams altogether and relying on coursework - I am split on that one as it could bias against a good student who gets no help at home."

    That is a double edged sword. Speaking as someone who usually did well in class but often coked in exam conditions I'm all for it, but you have to counter it with other factors - for example, I can think of a couple of classes I was in where the teacher just didn't get along with me and they'd be petty enough to penalise me for that rather than the actual work I did.

    I'd also question how you address an improving student - for example. if a student does poorly through the first half of the year due to any reason, then makes an effort to improve toward the end of the year, is it fair to include their early failures as an equal factor compared to their improvement in the last few months? Or, would the fact that their early performance penalises them be a disincentive to improve at all?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      genghis_uk (profile), 19 Nov 2020 @ 9:31am

      Re:

      I always say that my engineering degree gives me the understanding to know what to look up - I still stand by that. You don't remember everything but you need enough background to know where to start and then you apply the result. I grant you that may not be the case in every walk of life but it covers most of them.

      I also remain torn on the coursework only idea for the same reasons as you - although I was always one of those annoying types that did well in exams despite little obvious work. Coursework is definitely a double-edged sword but if implemented properly, it could work in an online only world. Weekly submissions that gradually become more difficult works in STEM subject but I can see how languages or humanities subjects could be difficult.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 19 Nov 2020 @ 10:57pm

        Re: Re:

        "You don't remember everything but you need enough background to know where to start and then you apply the result"

        ...and this is the thing I'm concerned is being bypassed. If people are able to do coursework that allows them to just search online and get straight As because they found the correct articles without understanding them, that likely means they won't have the background for the more advanced subjects to build upon. To give the example of coding I've already given - I've worked with coders whose idea of solving a problem is to copy/paste something from StackOverflow and edit it slightly to fit the local environment. Not a bad thing in a pinch if you're dealing with a common issue, but not a great thing long term.

        Especially since so many of these coders depend on sys admins like myself to provide platforms and solve issues they cause just because they don't understand, say, why we have certain security restrictions in production that aren't compatible with the code they just copied that stated "no not use in production" in bold at the top of the article.

        "Coursework is definitely a double-edged sword but if implemented properly, it could work in an online only world."

        The key being if implemented properly. If I understand it correctly, education policies in the US have forced teaching to pretty much abandon teaching the overall subject and just teach whatever's on the test. I'm not sure there's going to be anything positive in splitting this up into bite sized chunks with more opportunities to bring the grade down.

        "Weekly submissions that gradually become more difficult works in STEM subject"

        For a good student who consistently improves over the course of the year according to the difficulty of the required work. I'm concerned as to how it works with a student who fails consistently throughout the year, but improves and catches up to the required level at the end, or a student who has a family crisis that causes a dip in quality during the middle of the year.

        The question isn't how this works with a straight-A student who consistently understands the material with little need for extra tuition. The question is how it deals with students who aren't at the top of their game, but would pull through at the end in a standard exam situation.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2020 @ 12:43pm

    One set of instructions seems to ask students to roll the dice on permanently damaging their ears.

    What? How would one permanently damage one's ears by hitting a foam earplug with a hard object?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ayatkhan (profile), 26 Nov 2020 @ 3:21am

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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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