UG did test monitoring software
Lecturer Martijn Wieling said none of the students were obligated to participate in the test. ‘But there’s only one type of online exam available for this course. So it was either this or delay the exam indefinitely.’
The software allows lecturers to use students’ webcams and microphones to monitor them. Everything is recorded and checked later. It allows lecturers to see whether students took the exam themselves and didn’t cheat or ask for help.
This kind of surveillance is controversial in the Netherlands, because it might violate students’ privacy.
Partly because of privacy concerns, students could decide for themselves whether they wanted to take the exam. Before the decision to use the software was made, Wieling sent out a survey to get an overview of people’s concerns.
‘We asked our students whether they had the technical capability to join, such as a good computer and a working internet connection’, he says.
Anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t participate is allowed to take the exam in the first block of the first semester next year, says Wieling. They won’t forgo their right to a resit. ‘Only a few out of the eighty students opted out in the end.’
Interestingly enough, the board of directors was unaware of the pilot test. In an interview in the UKrant earlier this week, rector Cisca Wijmenga said the UG wasn’t experimenting with the software yet, but that they were keeping an eye on how other universities were using it.
‘This morning, Martijn Wieling explained to me how it all went’, says Wijmenga. I’m afraid the message about the pilot came after the guidelines about exams. We’re trying to figure out so many things so quickly that wires get crossed sometimes. I feel bad that we said something that ultimately didn’t turn out to be correct.’
Wieling understands the situation. ‘This was a bottom-up initiative’, he says. ‘I took it to the exam committee, since they have to approve first. After their approval and the students’ generally positive response, I contacted Educational Support and Innovation. They decided to support us and turn it into a pilot.’
Because everything had to be done so quickly, he understands why the information was delayed in reaching the board.
Wieling is currently working on evaluating the pilot. ‘Before I can comment on that, I want to send it to the board.’
In spite of the miscommunication, Wijmenga is looking forward to the results. ‘I’m curious to see what their findings are. Digital education is still a priority, so we have to have a backup for making exams.’