Proctoring seen as a pro for some, but a con for others

As students and instructors find new ways to adapt to an online educational environment, methods of online assessment are something that also face major changes. The MacPherson Institute, McMaster University’s centre for teaching and learning, has shared many resources and suggestions for instructors to develop a remote teaching plan. 

On the MacPherson website, there are also resources for assessment alternatives. A final exam can be a take-home exam and student presentations can be done online using Microsoft Teams or they can be recorded and posted on Avenue to Learn

For instructors that wish to conduct final exams online through Avenue to Learn, MacPherson suggested different features, including presenting questions one-by-one or putting in time constraints for the exam.

Although not mentioned on the MacPherson website, many course outlines also state that professors have the option of using proctoring softwares for assessments. As noted on the Undergraduate Examinations Policy, instructors have the responsibility to specify the required electronic equipment and software at the beginning of the course. 

Students have the responsibility to ensure that they have the necessary equipment and software required and any questions or considerations related to online examinations must be referred to an instructor no later than 10 days prior to an online examination.

For an online proctored exam, students must ensure they have equipment such as a webcam and additional software. Such software may require students to turn on their video camera, present identification, allow instructors to monitor and record the student’s computer activities, as well as lock or restrict their web browser during assessments.

It has not been made clear to all students whether proctoring will be used for some of their courses. 

Has anyone heard anything about if we will need to use our webcams during our online exams? Or will it be the same as when we did our online exams in April?

Posted by Spotted At Mac on Monday, September 28, 2020

Clean D’Souza, a third-year actuarial and financial mathematics student, is one of the students who is unsure if his course examinations will be remotely proctored or not. D’Souza said that he doesn’t mind if it is proctored and that he believes proctoring has many benefits. He believes proctoring can help to separate those who are actually putting in the work to get their grades and those who decide to cheat. 

Another third-year actuarial and financial mathematics student, Rimsha Laeeq, finished her first proctored examination on Oct. 5. Laeeq said that she did not mind having her examination proctored as it encouraged her to have greater focus during the test and to study harder beforehand. However, Laeeq expressed that proctoring was uncomfortable at times, including the fact that she had to show all of her surroundings to the camera and ensure she does not look away from the computer for too long. 

Kinesiology professor Trevor King has opted for online open-book assessments through Avenue to Learn.

“I’m hoping to not use [proctoring softwares] because I think that it adds a lot of stress to an already stressful situation for students, so I don’t want to add that on,” said King. 

“I’m hoping to not use [proctoring softwares] because I think that it adds a lot of stress to an already stressful situation for students, so I don’t want to add that on,” said King. 

King also added that although professors have to consider whether students are truly understanding the content, an open-book assessment doesn’t necessarily hinder students from learning.

“[M]y thought is that a test is not really applicable to the real world in most situations and if you go out and have a problem to solve, in the real world, you’re going to be able to look things up. [The ability to] quickly and effectively look things up is a very important skill that I think that students should have when they come out of university. So I think that an open book test makes way more sense than just having to memorize things.”

Professor Jennifer Ostovich of the department of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, has also taken a different approach to assessments this year. 

Ostovich has decided that rather than a traditional approach to grading, she will use specifications grading

Specifications grading is an approach in which course assessments and assignments are broken down into pass or fail tasks. To achieve a certain grade, students would have to pass certain tasks, and for different grade levels, there will be a different combination of tasks to ensure students reach the appropriate level of understanding. 

For example, weekly quizzes are divided into two different types and to achieve a higher grade, students would have to complete a higher ratio of one type of quiz versus another. In addition to weekly quizzes, there are also assignments students can complete and a greater number of completions is required for a higher grade. 

Ostovich expressed hope that with this new approach, students can feel that they retained more of the material and stress less about achieving certain grades on their assignments. 

When asked about potential student collaboration on assessments, Ostovich expressed that collaboration can be beneficial for student learning.

“Is it a bad thing for students to talk to one another and learn that way? I don’t think it is.”

“With any of the online testing options, that’s been the concern: that no matter what we do, students will collaborate. . . We have to set up a system in which it doesn’t matter if students are collaborating, because you can’t stop it right?. . . Is it a bad thing for students to talk to one another and learn that way? I don’t think it is. But you have to set up your assessment strategy so that that’s not a big deal if it happens and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”


Image courtesy of C/O Unsplash


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