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Student Rachael Grant attends online classes via Zoom. (Maddie Stellingwerf/Emerald)

The University of Oregon provost’s office announced April 13 that it will stop using all remote proctoring services that rely on artificial intelligence at the close of the spring 2021 term. UO hopes to promote academic integrity through a “more human and relational” lens, said Carol Gering, Associate Vice Provost for Online and Distance Education.

The most prominent of these services was ProctorU Record+, an extension that records students using their computer webcam and microphone, records screen activity and flags recordings for suspicious activity. UO’s contract with the service will be terminated following final exams in June.

“Student privacy concerns, national conversations about AI surveillance, and a reduced need for this type of proctoring solution as we move to resumption of more typical in person class scheduling” all influenced this decision, according to Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Janet Woodruff-Borden. 

To maintain academic integrity in the future, the office will partner with IntroDUCKtion to provide a module on academic integrity and its importance to the UO community during the summer sessions. It will also offer support to professors looking to pursue different routes of assessments and place more seats in the Exam Center at Knight Library for in-person proctoring. The office will remain open to faculty suggestions through email and at the Summer Teaching Institute.

Originally, the Office of the Provost hoped artificial intelligence proctoring would help professors provide fair examinations without imposing any extra costs on students. 

Operations and Business Analytics Professor Fang Yin said he found ProctorU helpful, particularly for ensuring students do not look up answers online. He has worked to train his students on how to use the service, and has only had two instances, out of hundreds, where students had to take a different version of the test due to technical difficulties.

Yin said he was a little disappointed to hear that ProctorU will not be an option in the future, but he has never felt that it was a perfect solution to the issue of cheating. 

“There are still people who will do it no matter what,” he said, but it’s only a small minority of students. “I’m ready to accept that just to make most students’ lives a little bit easier.”

Some students also feel that cheating is inevitable and artificial intelligence goes to unjustified lengths to prevent it.

Sophomore Mya Ganzer said she felt the webcam recording was an invasion of privacy and did not account for the reality of learning from home. 

“I was fortunate enough that my house is pretty quiet, but I know a lot of my friends who I’ve talked to have had issues with their houses being loud and getting flagged, or being worried about what was going to be recorded,” Ganzer said. “It felt very invasive.”

Sophomore Katie Mayer said she felt worried that the service would pick up noises from her mom, who was also working from home, in the next room, and sophomore Koyin Olopabe worried that her roommates walking in the background would be flagged.

Mayer said knowing the program was looking for “suspicious eye movement” contributed to her existing test anxiety.

While she’s glad that the program dissuaded cheating enough to “protect” the test’s curve, she didn’t think it was enough to make the stress worthwhile.

“It just is so much stress and for so little reward,” Mayer said.

Even more stress ensued when ProctorU did not work properly, which was not uncommon.

Ganzer once had an issue with ProctorU that led to her taking an important test in half of the allotted time. She went to go take her test using the program on Canvas but it failed to show up. When she asked for help from her professor, it took them 30 minutes to respond and the window for taking the test wasn’t extended.

Olopabe said she once tried to take a test in her financial management class through ProctorU and was told she’d have to pay $30, which resulted in the professor shifting to a Zoom proctoring strategy at the last minute.

Professor Stephen McKeon, Olopabe’s finance professor, said he valued the tools that ProctorU offered, but not enough to try to use it again following the mishap.

Professors at UO have already attempted to find alternatives to ProctorU. One of the most common is Zoom proctoring, like McKeon used. Provost Patrick Phillips and Woodruff-Borden wrote in the statement that they did not recommend Zoom proctoring as an alternative.

“You can make sure there’s not other people with them; you can make sure it’s really them taking the exam,” McKeon said of Zoom proctoring. “You can verify several things that you would want to verify to maintain integrity, but it isn’t monitoring what’s going on on the screen.”

This type of proctoring does not materially prevent cheating, Olopabe said, but reflects an effort to remind students why they shouldn’t cheat.

“Professors know there’s no sure way to prevent cheating so they kind of appeal to the pathos,” she said.

Other alternatives include providing questions in a random order and limiting the test-taking window so there is just enough time to finish the test, and no time to look up answers or collaborate. 

McKeon suggested conducting the test on paper and asking students to back away from the camera to ensure they don’t look up answers, and Yin allows students to take the same test twice, once by themselves and once with the opportunity to collaborate.

The Office of the Provost hopes that returning to in-person operations, which the University plans to do in fall 2021, will solve the majority of the issues with academic integrity. Whether in-person or remote, the office hopes to promote a culture of academic integrity at UO with this decision.