Indiana Daily Student

Students experience technical difficulties, nerves using lockdown browsers for exams

Most IU classes have shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and IU students have said professors sometimes mandate the use of lockdown browsers during online exams. Some students say they have experienced technical difficulties and increased stress as a result of the lockdown browsers.

Lockdown browsers monitor testing activity by observing eye and speech patterns and preventing test-takers from switching tabs on their computers. 

While the goal of the browsers is to deter cheating during exams, some IU students have said the browsers have affected their test-taking abilities.

[Related: Asynchronous classes are supposed to make learning flexible. Some students say they’re stressful.]

IU sophomore Emma Christoff said she took an anatomy class during which she had to use a lockdown browser during exams. She said one exam students took for extra credit used a different browser than usual, and it was proctored by a person who works for the lockdown browser watching them through their computer cameras. There were multiple interruptions that hindered her ability to take the exam, Christoff said.

Christoff said the proctored browser was frustrating to use. The proctor made students show all four corners of their rooms, and the students had to keep their head in a certain area of the camera throughout the exam. Because of her height, Christoff could not keep her head in the desired camera range, so she was  flagged for cheating more than once, she said.

“The person that was proctoring me three or four times would say, ‘It looks like you’re cheating, show me your room again,’” she said.

Christoff said these interruptions cut into her exam time, and her ability to focus was negatively affected. She would often check her camera to make sure her head was in the right space, and her concern took away from her focus on her exam, she said.

IU junior Remington Wilkison said his experience with lockdown browsers was also negative. The software for the browser was outdated, and it took 10 to 15 minutes for the program to load his structural kinesiology exams, he said. 

“I don’t know if it was because of the lockdown browser, but when I was taking exams my computer did crash I think twice last semester when I was using the lockdown browser,” he said. “I don’t know if that was just my computer being weird or not.” 

Because his exams were timed, his program crashing took up a significant part of the allotted exam time. Even though he would finish his exams on time, Wilkison said he could not go over his answers like he usually would. 

IU chemistry professor Steven Tait uses the Automated Respondus lockdown browser on Canvas during his exams and quizzes. The feature he uses records students taking a test while monitoring their eye movement and voices. 

Tait said the lockdown browser notifies him of abnormal testing behavior, but he does not like the program. He said his students are very trustworthy and eager to learn the material. He does not use lockdown browsers because he thinks his students are cheating. Instead, he uses the browser so his students can trust that their classmates are not cheating.

“I think it’s important for the students to have a reasonable feeling that the exam is being administered in a fair way, and that they can trust each other,” Tait said. 

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