Con: Proctorio

I don’t condone academic dishonesty, but it’s incredibly naive to think you can prevent it. Cheaters will always find a way to cheat; that’s just part of the human condition.

But when institutions of higher learning resort to “Big Brother” tactics, like Proctorio, for the sake of the illusion of security and a feeble attempt to retain their academic reputation, they are essentially throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The beauty of online classes is the flexibility they provide, but there are many system requirements a student has to meet to take an online course that uses the proctoring software. Hardware-wise, you need a fairly new computer that has an optimum webcam resolution and a microphone. This disenfranchises low-income students who cannot afford to fix minor inconveniences, like a broken mic, or who use computer-alternatives, like tablets or mobile phones. If a student has to go out of their way to make sure all these requirements are met, is an online class still as convenient as they advertised?

And we haven’t even talked about the extent of access Proctorio asks for! Upon downloading, it asks for the following permissions: to read and change all your data on the websites you visit, modify data you copy and paste, capture content of your screen, manage your downloads, manage your apps, extensions, and themes. In some cases, the system can even remotely control your system, essentially locking you out of your own computer. The most invasive part is that these programs can still run in the background, even when not in direct use.

According to the Proctorio website, “The system can flag over 20 different suspicious behaviors, which are fully customizable by the professor. The results are displayed in the gradebook and sorted by suspicion level. Proctorio provides full video evidence for professor review, with only suspicious frames highlighted.”

However, there are some kinks in the system. At times, the software can detect false positives, that pick up completely normal actions, and flag them as suspicious, according to an article from This forces a student into the philosophical burden of trying to prove a negative, if an instructor wishes to challenge the exam. This type of “you shouldn’t be worried if you have nothing to hide” attitude is not only childish, but inherently paradoxical.

If a cop pulled you over without reason and demanded to search your car, and says if you’re not doing anything wrong you shouldn’t object, would you let them?

At that point it’s not about what is or is not in your car, it’s the principle of the matter, and when you relinquish your rights so easily, it opens the floodgates to a more Orwellian future.