Respondus becoming more common

Elizabeth Taylor, Associate News Editor

In Eastern’s online classes, students are often required to make use of Respondus, a program which is meant to prevent cheating.

The program has two separate “levels”: the LockDown Browser and the Respondus Monitor.

 

LockDown Browser

The browser is a lighter form of security which some instructor require students to download for their class.

When a student goes to take a quiz or test via that online class, they have to click a link which opens the LockDown browser. The program shuts down any other applications open on the device and fills up the whole screen.

This prevents students from accessing notes or homework on their computer, as well as search engines where they could potentially find answers.

The program also prevents printing, copy/pasting and keyboard shortcuts while open on a device.

 

Respondus Monitor

This program can also be downloaded onto students’ computers and is considerably more intensive. Some instructors do opt for this version

All of the features of the LockDown Browser are still in action, with additional measures requiring the students’ webcams and microphones.

At the beginning of a test session, each student has to go through a startup sequence which may include showing photo ID, recording the room around them on camera, and recording audio in the room.

According to the Respondus website, “Powerful analytics are used to detect suspicious behaviors during an exam session.  Video segments with potential exam violations are flagged for the instructor, with an overall risk level assigned to the exam session.”

The website doesn’t have a full list of actions which the system will flag, but the analysis program uses “facial detection, motion, and lighting,” as well as “keyboard activity, mouse movements, hardware changes” and more to “identify patterns and anomalies associated with cheating.

Respondus Monitor also has a function called “Review Priority” which ranks which test recordings instructors should review.

 

Student Response

Not every Eastern student has experience with Respondus, but with the dramatic increase in online learning, the programs have become more commonplace.

Valen Fulton, a junior art major, had technological issues running the Respondus Monitor.

“It messes up my computer to where I have to restart it because I have different things that run in the background,” Fulton said. “It also sucks because it doesn’t allow me to adjust things at all. It makes my screen brighter and then I can’t change it and it gives me a headache.”

She also had negative experiences with instructors who used the system.

“They’ll bring the video back and be like, ‘Oh, you looked suspicious at this question so I didn’t give you credit for it,’” Fulton said. “I may not be able to focus well. I’m still looking around at my surroundings no matter how comfortable I am in them, because that’s just the human brain.”

Madelyn Powers, a sophomore English major, first used the system in an online class pre-pandemic.

“For me it was just a hassle. You had to be alone in the room, but I had a roommate at the time, and there’s only so much you can do to ask them to be quiet,” Powers said. “It’s also a lot of extra steps in preparation for a test.”

Powers also had technical difficulties, but they appeared to be more connected to the Respondus software than her computer’s hardware.

“When you had to scan your face and show your ID, it wouldn’t recognize you, or the audio wouldn’t work so you’d have to keep doing it,” Powers said.

Both Fulton and Powers said that the program created a strained relationship between students and instructors.

“The professor that had us use it didn’t trust any of us, and she would watch all of the recordings and what we were doing,” Powers said. “I get they don’t want us to cheat, but it gets really stressful having to do all the extra steps. If they don’t want us to cheat, find a way to have tests in person.”

Fulton said she felt that the extra steps almost encouraged cheating.

“In a way, it promotes people to see what they can get away with,” Fulton said. “At the same time, it can have a negative connotation of ‘I’m not going to do well because I can’t use all the resources that I have with me.’”

The Respondus Monitor has been the subject of controversy in other schools and universities as students feel their privacy is being invaded by the technology.

Other issues students across the nation have noted include not being able to use the restroom or respond to a rung doorbell during a test, not being able to care for a child or pet during a test, and increased anxiety due to being filmed.

 

Elizabeth Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]