The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Anti-cheating software raises concerns

Photo courtesy Alex Hoben SE student Ranem Nababteh studying at the computers in the SE library.

Brian Baran

Some view anti-cheating software as needed for online learning to prevent cheating and improve remote learning environments, but others view it as an unnecessary invasion of privacy forced upon them without any say.

Over the last few years, colleges have seen an uptick in the usage of anti-cheating software such as Proctorio and Respondus Lockdown Browser. The sudden shift to online as a result of the pandemic spurred both the implementation of these programs and also discussion about them among the public.

For many students, it was also last year they were exposed to these types of software.

“I was both surprised and not surprised,” SE student Grace Lindsay said about using these types of software. “Surprised, because yeah, it’s an online class, and you don’t really expect a teacher to look at you and say, ‘Download this because I want to make sure you’re not cheating.’ But not surprised because, again, it’s an online course, and you know, you could easily be taking a test and then whip out your phone — taking a test on your computer and then whip out your phone in the other hand without them realizing it and you can easily cheat right then and there.”

Other students were not as understanding in their first reaction, such as SE student Saayla Conwell.

“First of all, just the thought of these classes asking for you to download this type of software is an invasion of privacy,” Conwell said. “What gives you the right to watch and see what we’re looking up online on our own devices? To me, that’s disgusting, vile and a lack of right to watch and use what we please.”

According to the “About” page on Proctorio’s website, the company states its goal is to expand quality education by providing high-integrity learning environments. While it may not be the most popular among students, some professors and staff see its usefulness.

“This type of software simply enables students to take exams and tests remotely rather than being about cheating, per se,” NE radio/TV/film instructor Brandt Sleeper said. “This is because I believe while people are basically honest, they may, given the right set of circumstances, fall off the wagon. This tool makes it easier to remain honest in a remote situation. It is a safeguard, or perhaps a guardrail.”

Still, some students, like Lindsay, find its usage a privacy hazard.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve used it for years. Someone can easily hack it, take it over and boom, you’ve got yourselves a virus,” Lindsay said. “And then if a student comes and points the finger at the school, the school’s going to go ‘No, that wasn’t us.’ But it’s your app that your teachers have forced us to download.”

photo courtesy Lagos Techie/Unsplash

This is not limited to students either. Sleeper draws the line at some of these software practices and said he would be open to alternative methods if his students came to him about it.

“I do not use camera monitoring systems,” Sleeper said. “There have been issues with that platform. I also do not feel comfortable putting a camera in their personal space. The Lockdown Browser feature simply keeps them from opening or running other programs simultaneously. It is a deterrent rather than a punitive measure. I’m most open to students simply being honest. Then it would not be a point of discussion.”

Students have alternate methods in mind as well. Conwell said one way to prevent cheating is to ensure that students have the resources to prepare to take a test.

“You can chat with tutors online who understand the material you’re struggling with,” Conwell said. “Quizlet or any study card, practice test websites help you so much, especially if you just can’t understand what your professor is trying to teach or explain.”

Lindsay, on the other hand, said to prevent cheating, students and professors may just have to bite the bullet and come up to campus like the old days.

“I get it, nobody wants to drive up to TCC, especially in the middle of the pandemic going on right now, you know?” Lindsay said. “But that seems like the only logical solution. On top of that, we’re already paying for the courses so it wouldn’t really matter.”

She acknowledged that students cheating both in-person and online is inevitable, and no matter what programs are used, it’ll happen eventually.

“Because no matter what, you’re always going to have that one student that figures out how to cheat the system,” she said. “Whether it be an online system or a physical schooling system, you’re going to — they’re always going to figure it out.

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