In an attempt to monitor test taking in a remote setting, Elmhurst University professors have started utilizing Respondus to proctor tests and make sure students are not cheating. While this may seem practical, it has become quite problematic for students.
The Respondus Monitor and Lockdown Browser system utilizes a variety of functions in the test-taking process. It locks down student’s browsers so they cannot use anything else on their computer while taking the exam.
Additionally, Respondus Monitor films students taking their tests and flags any irregular behaviors, such as if a student gets up or looks at their phone.
Upon logging into Blackboard, students see a message that explains that because of the functionality of Respondus, the program may collect and store biometric data. While EU does not use or obtain this data, students are still unsettled by Respondus’ methods.
The Leader put out a survey asking students to comment on their thoughts on Respondus (see story on page 4). Many students mentioned feeling like it was an invasion of their privacy.
For Respondus to work, students must have access to a webcam. Even though this may be the standard for many laptop computers nowadays, it still is unfair to assume students have access to this. Additionally, it is quite common for people to cover up their webcams in an attempt to protect themselves further from any privacy invasion from other sources.
Because of Respondus’ collection of data this way, students have placed signs all over campus protesting it (see story on page 2).
It is a good thing that EU is being more transparent regarding how Respondus uses their data and are even looking into alternative solutions to the Blackboard disclaimer page. However, that does not change the fact that students are very uncomfortable with this program.
In addition to the data collection and the invasion of privacy, students in our survey and elsewhere feel that Respondus makes the test-taking all the more stressful and anxiety-inducing. Taking exams amidst a pandemic should not be becoming even more stressful than it already is.
The set-up for Respondus is not a simple one, and with any piece of technology, it is not perfect, nor can be 100 percent reliable. Respondus can very well flag things that should not be flagged or interfere with the test itself.
Students even feel that having to use Respondus is hurting their grade.
Between all of the student pushback toward the system and its functionality issues, EU really needs to reconsider using Respondus. Yes, it is important to maintain academic integrity in a safe way while completing remote learning, but not at the expense of dampening students’ experiences.
It may be that EU is considering changing its procedures in the fall, but with finals on the horizon, something needs to be done now. If students are struggling to cope with Respondus in even lower stake tests and quizzes, doing a final using Respondus can be a disaster and ultimately detrimental.
It is EU’s job to make sure students are comfortable and have the right tools to succeed, especially in the context of the pandemic. Right now, it seems Respondus is acting more as a barrier.