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UvA pilots online surveillance for exams

Dirk Wolthekker,
24 april 2020 - 09:52

The Faculty of Economics & Business (FEB) is conducting three online surveillancepilots for remote exams. Dean Han van Dissel: ‘This is currently the only option if we want to prevent international students from suffering a study delay.’

Due to the corona crisis, this year students are expected to take all exams online, raising concerns about cheating. Various universities already use proctoring software, which records sounds via the computer’s webcam and microphone, as well as checks the user’s location, websites visited and programmes used. The system may also request users show via webcam where they are taking the exam to make sure they are alone and have no access to study material.
At the FEB, there are three pilots being conducted in three different subject to text the system at the FEB. Pjotr van der Jagt, chairman of the Central Student Council,voices hisconcerns:‘Not only is the systeman intrusion of privacy, but not everyone has a suitable computer with a webcam that shows the whole room.’
The UvA has strongly advised against the use of proctoring, stating that it is a ‘promising tool but not yet reliable enough’. The statement goes on to say that UvA technicians have, ‘repeatedly suffered substantial technical failures at several faculties, even in small groups’.

‘No alternative’ 
Dean Han van Dissel of the FEB agrees, but says there is not yet an alternative. ‘The alternative would be to postpone all exams which will inevitably cause study delay. We don’t know when we can return to the “old situation,” so we have to move online. The question is: to what extent is data stored in the software, and when will the data be destroyed? The rules of the Dutch Data Protection Authority must be respected.’
The FEB has around 3,500 international students, many of whom have since returned home and now follow their coursesonline. Van Dissel: ‘Online exams are a realistic option to prevent study lag. Apart from the costs and risks, we don’t want to ask students to return just to sit exams, even if this was possible.’ Based on the results of the three pilots, the UvA is expected to decide at the beginning of May whether to invest in this form of online assessment. The examination boards are also involved in the decision.
Earlier this week, students in Tilburg started a petition against the proctoring software.