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Striking a Balance

Yesterday, a judge in Ohio ruled that a university conducting a "room scan" during an online proctored exam was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. While normally reserved for more criminal and social justice matters, the judge found the amendment applied to the university and deemed their actions a violation of the student's right against an illegal search.

While it was a competitor of ours involved in this lawsuit and not us, legal decisions such as this obviously impact the choices we make in trying to provide universities with options to serve all their students' diverse needs. Here are a few thoughts we have that are shaping how we approach this task:

  1. Proctorio's suite of services are offered a la carte. Any university or institution who contracts with us has full discretion to use or not use any of our features.
  2. For over a year now, we have moved away from the concept of a Room Scan towards what we call a Desk Scan. We feel this is a more targeted approach that balances the student's very real concern about protecting the privacy of their personal space with the university's equally real concern about the integrity of their academic brand.
  3. Striking a balance is, indeed, at the core of most of the concerns and controversies of this shift to online learning. Online proctoring provides accommodation and convenience. But it must also provide academic verification. During the height of the pandemic, students had sometimes competing needs for privacy and progression toward their diploma. As COVID restrictions have lessened and students have returned to in-person classes, many have grown accustomed to the added convenience that remote test-taking provides.
  4. Our commitment to accommodating students has not wavered, even as we've experienced exponential growth during the pandemic. Our settings allow for further customization. Not only can a university turn Desk Scan on or off for the entire campus, for a department or for a full class, but also individually for students who raise a concern about privacy.
  5. The situation in this case seems to involve sharing pictures and/or recordings of the student in question. Proctorio has a strict data policy against such an act. The recordings we conduct are at the university's request and are shared only with the course's professor or other approved administrator. They cannot be downloaded and saved for unmonitored, offline viewing or forwarded to third parties. Other competitors of ours allow this, but it is a line in the sand we will not cross. We have even lost business over this issue. The data needs to remain between the student and the most limited number of university staff to conduct the test.

Proctorio began as an accommodation. We began as a force for leveling the playing field just a bit more for all learners. Whether a student is in a wheelchair attending a school that is not ADA compliant, or a trans student who is bullied by classmates, or a student in low income housing who doesn't have a strong internet connection, or a working parent who cannot find affordable childcare, we believe we provide a much-needed service for those communities. We were never meant to be the only test-taking option for students. The pandemic changed this dynamic. Now, in this new phase, many students are seeing online learning not as a need-to-have, but as a want-to-have. It is giving them those most precious commodities: time and convenience. For them, they have balanced the arguments and accepted the trade-offs.

We will continue to monitor the next steps in this case and we will continue to develop our product so it is able to remain a tool for an educator trying to serve the interests and needs of students around the world.

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