- Nov 10
If Only They’d Had Online Proctoring
In 2012, a group of about 150 students at Harvard University were accused of academic dishonesty when completing their take-home finals. Students in Government 1310: "Introduction to Congress" had to do an exam. Of the 279 students in the class, about half of those turned in a test that looked very similar to their peers'.
The school discovered the suspected plagiarism over the summer as they were grading. Soon after, Harvard officials investigated the case, and warned students that academic dishonesty could result in expulsion. Clearly, the consequences of fraud were steep. Today, schools have access to tools that may have prevented this incident.
Having students complete exams at home may not have been the wisest idea, as no one was monitoring them. This open environment gives students who want to plagiarize the opportunity to do so. Fortunately, professors can still allow their students to complete tests from home and feel relaxed knowing they'll be honest. Online proctoring services make that balance possible. With these services, a trained proctor watches the students as they take their test via webcams online. The proctors look for unauthorized behaviors, such as peering at notes, eyes darting away from the test or students leaving the room when they shouldn't. The information then goes to a professor, who can decide what to do from there.
Furthermore, if students know they'll be monitored during their exam, they may be less likely to attempt academic dishonesty. This tool could have come in handy for Harvard's Government 1310 class.
While online proctoring can help deter plagiarism and discover those who are dishonest, the Harvard case, and those like it, still raise concerns. What makes students want to plagiarize in the first place? How can professors eliminate that inclination so online proctoring isn't necessary? Unfortunately, we don't have a clear answer. However, many believe that the academic world is full of pressure. Students have to get high grades so their GPA is high. That good GPA will go on their resume and help them land a well-paying job. In essence, school is high stakes, and many are willing to be dishonest of it means making the grade. Perhaps if schools and employers reminded students that honesty is more important than getting an A, students would feel less inclined to take risks while testing.
Hopefully, higher education will figure out what influences students to be dishonest and find a healthy way to help those under a lot of pressure. In the meantime, online proctoring services provide a way to deter and catch academic dishonesty.