Students raise concerns over use of proctoring software during remote exams

After bringing the issue to the Ombudsperson, the students will no longer have to use the software for their exams

Photo: Maxwell Gawlick / The Peak

Written by: Michelle Gomez, News Editor

With SFU’s switch to remote learning during COVID-19, the use of proctoring softwares for online exams has become more common. It has also caused controversy amongst students; the Simon Fraser Student Society has asked SFU to prohibit the use of these softwares for exams. Proctoring softwares are used to monitor students during exams through recording them, visually and audibly.

An email sent last week to students in MATH 155 announced that they will be required to download a proctoring software for their final and at least one of the midterm exams. The email noted that student’s computers must have a functioning webcam and microphone to record both video and audio. It also stated that all screen activity and any internet traffic will be captured. 

May 25 was the last day to drop classes with a full refund. The email was sent to the class on May 25 at 11:31 p.m. 

A post about this in an SFU student group on Facebook has received much attention, and has mostly been met with criticism regarding privacy issues. 

MATH 155 student Brandon Pereira discussed the matter further in a phone interview with The Peak

“It’s going to be used for the duration of the course which means that it will be present on your computer for a long period of time [ . . . ] if it’s there for a long time and it does have access to your internet traffic and your audio and microphone then that does present some problems.” 

He also said that a main concern is that this was not communicated to students at the start of the course, noting that “it’s a shock.” 

Pereira explained that a group of students from the class have brought the issue to the Ombudsperson, who is currently in communication with the math department and looking to find a resolution. On June 1, the class received a follow-up email noting that the class would no longer be using the software, and that they are working on an alternate solution. 

Chair of the Department of Mathematics Tom Archibald said in a video interview with The Peak that there has been “a very severe spike” in cheating in math courses since SFU has moved to remote learning. 

According to Archibald, questions for entire exams would appear on Chegg.com an online platform that provides users with math solutions and online tutoring within moments of the exam start. 

Archibald noted that in the worst case in the math department since remote learning, one third of a class of over 100 students were caught cheating. 

On the issue of cheating, Perreira said, “They’re trying to crack down on it [cheating], so I understand that, but I don’t think that the way they’re going about it now with this software is necessarily the best way to go about it.” 

When asked if the software is able to collect information outside of the duration of the exam while it is installed on the computer, Archibald responded, “I do not know, I have not used any of this software, I have not even ever seen any of it.” He added that they would not be interested in using a software that collects personal information. 

Archibald also stated in an email to The Peak that SFU’s policies regarding proctoring software “are in the process of being formulated at the senior admin level.” 

The Peak reached out to the professor of the class, who did not respond by the publication deadline.