Big Teacher is watching you online

Academic honesty is stressed in pursuit of higher education, yet students find ways to cheat in class or in an online course.

But professors at Pierce College are using technology to make cheating more difficult.  

Since fall 2016, a new proctoring service become available to professors. This service uses webcams to deter students from cheating in online courses.

Jennifer Moses, a professor of psychology and statistics, said a theory in social psychology states the importance of putting yourself in “winning situations.”

This theory was put to the test when Moses began teaching online classes and cases of academic dishonesty emerged.  

“The pull to engage in academic dishonesty in these tough online situations reflects not on the integrity of the student, but on their desire to do well,” Moses said. “In these cases, I think online proctoring is just as much a service to the student as to the instructor.”

Moses said the new service is beneficial for professors to prevent students from cheating in their online classes.

“Proctorio is essentially remote test proctoring to ensure that nobody is engaging in academic dishonesty,” Moses said.

Proctorio, a tool that became accessible to all professors after the switch from Moodle to Canvas, gives instructors tools to administer online courses based off their needs.

 “Proctorio can be used by professors in a number of ways,” Distance Education Coordinator Wendy Bass said. “It can be used to record students taking tests from start to finish, it can be used to listen for noise in the background in case someone else is reading out answers and it can tell if you click away to another page to look up the questions.”

Ali Asghar, a student balancing work and school with the help of online courses, has some doubts about the software.

“I get that teachers want to crack down on potential cheaters, but didn’t they think that recording people through webcams is an invasion of a student’s privacy?”

A question that Moses, a strong supporter of Proctorio’s services, had an immediate answer to.

“Students don’t have to take an online class,” Moses said.  “When students sign up to take an online class, it’s a prerequisite that proctoring is going to be part of it.”

Asghar, however, said that though online students should expect proctoring, the instructors have a responsibility to put the use of Proctorio on the syllabus and make sure that students are well aware of the fact before signing up.

Nevertheless, Bass says Proctorio is here for the long run and that the “general consensus” was a positive one.

“So far, all the feedback from professors has been great,” Bass said.

In fact, Bass said that Proctorio convinced one of her colleagues to start writing letters of recommendation for her online students.

“Now that she has had access to Proctorio,” Bass said, “she has been able to better get to know her online students and feels confident enough to write recommendations for them.”

As for students without webcams, Bass is working with the library to set up potential times when Proctorio students can come in and use the computers.