ANU commits to online exams, invigilation despite student concerns

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ANU commits to online exams, invigilation despite student concerns

Once bitten, twice shy.

The Australian National University has confirmed it will hold remote exams at the end of the current semester despite concerns from students about the security and efficacy of the online invigilation software being used.

ANU is currently working to integrate the US-based remote invigilation service Proctorio with its Moodle learning management system, Wattle, with the view for the solution to be implemented by mid-May in time for the end of semester exams.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Australian universities had increasingly been looking to remote invigilation and exams to reduce costs and speed up the marking process, with some building their own solutions or looking to third-party providers.

Proctorio, which is used by over 400 universities including Harvard, runs as an extension on students’ Chrome browser that uses inputs from a computer’s microphone, keyboard and webcam to automatically flag potentially suspicious activity to test administrators.

However, following recent large scale cyber security breaches at ANU and mounting issues with services like Zoom that were rapidly deployed amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent campus closures, students at ANU have voiced significant concerns about the safety of online exam systems.

Aside from data security issues, there are also concerns about Proctorio’s automated flagging of certain behaviours as suspicious, the student paper Woroni reported.

“Some users have brought up the concern that an artificial intelligence mechanism may not be able to differentiate between regular nervous movement and legitimate cheating,” Woroni said, noting that the software doesn’t have the ability for examiners to log false positives to help train the system.

The university’s Information Security Office has released its response to students’ data concerns, confirming that all data from ANU will be kept on Microsoft Azure in an Australian region.

In a more detailed privacy impact assessment, ANU’s chief information security officer has also advised that Proctorio adheres to the university’s cyber security requirements.

Additionally, the assessment states that “no personal information is sent to or held in the system”.

‘Proctorio collects personal information only in the form of a video of the student during their exam.

“Proctorio supports single sign-on to verify user. The User credentials are an authentication factor done by the LMS and what the LTI points to when recording, no data is stored during this process.

“The single sign-on and settings are within Moodle. If a student has access to the test or course within Moodle, then Proctorio will add in the added layer of authentication to initiate for the attempt.”

Other universities’ experiences with remote invigilation platforms have largely been met with success, with Southern Cross University even connecting to students caught on the other side of the Great Firewall during China’s lockdowns during the initial COVID-19 outbreak.

Institutions are, however, still understably cautious about the technology due to the continued strength of the lucrative ‘contract cheating’ market even in the face of harsh penalties.

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