Invasive software that records students’ computer screens and monitors their eye movements will be used to stop them cheating on exams.

Australian universities were forced to ditch in-person tests for at least semester one as campuses shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, exams will be conducted online from the student’s bedroom where their every move is recorded and tracked by all-seeing eyes.

Several programs are being used that either have a ‘live invigilator’ watching the student take the exam, or use artificial intelligence to flag suspicious activity.

Students have pushed back against the programs being used, arguing being filmed in their own homes in an invasion of privacy.

ANU student Sasha Personeni (pictured) said students were concerned 'regular nervous movement' would be flagged as potential cheating

ANU student Sasha Personeni (pictured) said students were concerned ‘regular nervous movement’ would be flagged as potential cheating

One student at the University of NSW described using a program called Examity for a summer school test. 

That setup has an invigilator in India watch the student through their webcam, with the whole test recorded.

‘You must turn on your webcam, show your desk space, your hands and where your phone is, and have your microphone on at all times,’ he said.

‘You show your room, under your desk, open drawers, allow them to track your mouse, have a mirror to show around your room at any time if they think you’re cheating.

‘They’re actually super observant, I had a non-course related piece of paper of my superannuation like in one of the crevices of my desk and they asked me to show it because they saw the corner of it.’

Examity’s fine print notes that students handed over their data ‘at their own risk’ because ‘no data protection procedures are entirely infallible’.

‘While we strive to protect your personally identifiable information, we cannot guarantee that it will be 100 per cent secure,’ it states.

‘Your transmission of your data to our website thus is done entirely at your own risk.’

One of the programs, Examity, has an invigilator in India watch the student through their webcam, with the whole test recorded

One of the programs, Examity, has an invigilator in India watch the student through their webcam, with the whole test recorded

Students must show the whole room through their webcam to make sure there is nothing around that could be use to cheat. Then their every move is monitored

Students must show the whole room through their webcam to make sure there is nothing around that could be use to cheat. Then their every move is monitored

Monash University was planning to use Examity for Chinese students locked out of Australia when coronavirus first struck in January.

Pro-vice chancellor Kris Ryan at the time appeared in a video calmly explaining the system and how it would work.

However, Monash later switched to building its own platform called eExams that would be administered by university staff.

‘We will ensure academic integrity by using remote invigilation for eExams,’ Monash told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘We are committed to supporting all our students to complete eExams and providing access to the appropriate facilities and technology they need, recognising that home environments can be difficult for these purposes.’

Australian National University students are protesting against another system called Proctorio, which uses a computer algorithm instead of a live examiner.

The software records the student’s webcam, keystrokes, screen, mouse movements, and even facial expressions and flags anything suspicious for review.

What is classified as suspicious depends on the settings set by the university, measured against other students taking the exam.

ANU activist Grace Hill said it was 'creepy and unacceptable' that to take an exam students would be filmed in their house

ANU activist Grace Hill said it was ‘creepy and unacceptable’ that to take an exam students would be filmed in their house

A student is filmed taking an exam using the Proctorio system in a demonstration video

A student is filmed taking an exam using the Proctorio system in a demonstration video

A Proctorio representative explained how closely body language was monitored in response to a question from a student who frequently checks the clock in exams.  

‘It is very sensitive and picks up eye movements as well as head movements independently,’ they said.

‘However, it is very common for eyes and even heads to move during an exam. Our system highlights abnormalities in students who took the same exam. 

‘In this case, if you were the only one looking at the clock, then yes you might come out on top of the report as more suspicious than you classmates.’

Proctorio stores the recorded data on its servers in the U.S., but only university staff can access it. The system is used by more than 400 universities worldwide.

More than 3,500 students signed a petition calling for ANU to dump Proctorio and defer exams until the pandemic is over or give them open book exams.

‘Students who move their eyes too much, have the wrong facial expressions, or move their bodies can be identified by Proctorio and then penalised, or made to move their camera around and show an invigilator the room they’re in,’ ANU student activist Grace Hill wrote.

‘It’s creepy and unacceptable that in order to take an exam, students would be filmed in their house.’

ANU students in a Zoom video meetup protesting the university using Proctorio for their exams

ANU students in a Zoom video meetup protesting the university using Proctorio for their exams

University of Sydney and University of Queensland are using ProctorU, a platform that has both an external invigilator and AI monitoring (demo film pictured)

University of Sydney and University of Queensland are using ProctorU, a platform that has both an external invigilator and AI monitoring (demo film pictured)

Another student, Sasha Personeni, told the Guardian that students were concerned ‘regular nervous movement’ would be flagged as potential cheating.

‘It’s pretty common for a lot of students, myself included, when we sit exams, to look around the room, take pauses, or fidget, while you consider the question,’ she said.

Students were also worried their information could be accessed by hackers, especially given ANU’s high-profile data breach last year.

‘We can find no evidence of Proctorio suffering a security breach,’ the university said in a statement to students. 

‘Whilst the concerns are understandable, that should be balanced against the fact hundreds of universities have utilised it.’

ANU told Daily Mail Australia it would use take home exams, quizzes, essays, projects, case studies, and research papers instead of exams, but some courses needed them for professional accreditation requirements.

The University of Canberra is also considering using Proctorio for its online exams alongside competing platforms.

University of Sydney and University of Queensland are using ProctorU, a platform that has both an external invigilator and AI monitoring.

More than 4,000 UQ students want this system dumped for similar reasons to ANU’s objection to Proctorio.

‘We understand that these are unprecedented and difficult times, and that academic integrity is an important concern for both the University and UQU,’ the student union said.

‘However, filming students in their homes and allowing third party corporations to store and commodify their personal data crosses the line.’

Monash University pro-vice chancellor Kris Ryan appeared in a video calmly explaining the Examity system and how it would work. Monash later dumped it and made its own

Monash University pro-vice chancellor Kris Ryan appeared in a video calmly explaining the Examity system and how it would work. Monash later dumped it and made its own

The American company’s policies state that data is deleted a week after the exam and no information can be sold.

Latrobe and the University of Melbourne said they would use unspecified online exam software while Curtin University was developing its own.

Swinburne University said exams would be replaced with ‘time-bound quizzes and tests’ through its existing systems.

Macquarie University said: ’60 per cent of units offered this Session formal exams have been replaced by other forms of assessment such as open book exams.’

Universities of Wollongong and Bond University didn’t specify whether they would use online exams and other universities failed to respond to Daily Mail Australia’s questions.

In addition to online exams, many universities are making results pass/fail, expunging any failed units from records, or allowing students to drop out of a class at any time with no penalty.  



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