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Loyola Professors Give Priority to Reducing Student Anxiety Over Proctoring Exams

Eisha Shah | The PhoenixEven with quizzes and tests being administered online, some professors aren't taking extra steps — such as a browser monitor — to prevent cheating.

As classes have shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Loyola professors have been faced with a unique challenge: making sure students don’t cheat.

Cheating, according to Loyola’s guidelines on academic integrity, includes obtaining or distributing examination information prior to the exam, changing answers after submission and using unauthorized study aids. Students are also prohibited from using fake documents to avoid an exam, taking an exam for another student and allowing another person to take one’s exam.   

Anti-cheating softwares, such as Respondus LockDown browser and Proctorio, are utilized by some Loyola professors to detect cheating during exams. Respondus LockDown browser blocks students from accessing other applications and websites while they take an exam, according to its website. Proctorio records students’ webcam and screen during exams and uses artificial intelligence to catch suspicious behaviors, according to its website. Even if anti-cheating softwares are accessible to Loyola professors, many are choosing not to use them. 

Jasper Cragwall, an English professor at Loyola, said he isn’t proctoring his exams through Zoom or other softwares. Instead, he said he designs assessments that are less susceptible to cheating by asking analytical questions, which the internet can’t answer.

Loyola professor Jasper Cragwall (above) said he doesn’t use proctoring software to monitor exams because he thinks they are “needlessly confrontational.”
Courtesy of Loyola University Chicago

Cragwall said he feels monitoring students while they take an exam would make his students feel as if he’s mistrusting them. He said he believes most of his students are trying to do their best during these unprecedented times and wouldn’t cheat. 

“The softwares are needlessly confrontational to me,” Cragwall said. “And it seems problematically suspicious of the students.”

Cragwall also said he wants to lower the stress levels of his students as much as possible since students are also navigating their way through a pandemic. He said he thinks anti- cheating softwares are more likely to incite panic attacks than detect cheating. 

“This is a moment of struggle for all of us,” Cragwall said. “If somebody cheats, then that’s a cost I am comfortable bearing for this pandemic — it doesn’t seem to be the end of the world.”

Shauna Price, a Loyola professor who teaches a combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes in the Department of Biology, said she allows her students to take exams within a 24-hour time frame at their convenience. 

Price said her reason for not using the Respondus LockDown browser or any other proctoring services is because she wants to make her students’ — who are predominately first-years — experience as smooth as she can during their first semester of university. 

“Since I teach a large lecture class of mostly freshmen, there are many that are struggling with the online format,” Price said. 

This semester, Price said catching cheating isn’t her biggest priority because she wants to devote her time to making sure her students have the resources to be successful in her classes. 

“I’m sure cheating is occuring, and of course I would prefer it didn’t occur, but I’m focused on other aspects of the course,” Price said. “I’d rather not add anxiety to students to try to prevent cheating.” 

John Kelly, a professor who teaches biology to more than ninety students, is allowing his students to use the textbook, their notes and his powerpoints while taking his multiple-choice exam because of the transition to a virtual semester. Kelly said the exam is only open for fifty minutes, so students are restricted from looking at their resources for all the questions. 

Professor John Kelly (above) from Loyola’s biology department said he thinks proctoring softwares are an invasion of students’ privacy.

“They need to study and have a good command of the material, but if there are quick details they want to look up, they can do that,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s exams are administered on Sakai, a learning management system used through the university, and he said he doesn’t use proctoring services because he thinks it’s an invasion of the student’s privacy and questions whether they are actually effective. 

“It makes me uncomfortable, I think it makes students uncomfortable, and I’m also not confident on how well they actually work,” Kelly said. 

Kelly also said his goal for this semester is to make sure his students are learning the content of the course to the same extent as they would in person.

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