ProctorU Abandons Business Based Solely on AI

The company will no longer sell services to monitor test taking -- if there is no human being analyzing the results.

May 24, 2021

ProctorU, a leading provider of remote proctoring, is ending one of the ways it sells its services. No longer will colleges be able to purchase a system based solely on artificial intelligence, or AI.

Instead, colleges will be required to purchase systems that involve a human being in analyzing what the video has captured. The company believes this switch will cut down on false positives for cheating and will build support among faculty members.

ProctorU officials also hope to spur change within an industry that has grown and become more controversial during the pandemic.

Jarrod Morgan, a founder of ProctorU and chief strategy officer at Meazure Learning (which owns ProctorU), said that, in theory, the lower-cost services that rely on AI were supposed to have a faculty member analyze the results. But research by the company has found that only about 10 percent of faculty members review the video. A University of Iowa audit found only 14 percent of faculty members were analyzing the results they received from Proctorio.

Faculty members face "overload" with all the information they receive, he said. But "it's unreasonable and unfair if faculty members" are punishing students based on the results without looking at what the video finds.

For instance, if a test taker talks to her 4-year-old during a test, ProctorU would flag that student for violating the rules about not talking during a test. But a human being would see that and not find the student to have cheated, Morgan said.

A barking dog could also result in a student being flagged, but a person reviewing the video would know the student wasn't cheating.

ProctorU is also pointing to the "best practices" for proctoring, from the Association of Test Publishers and National College Testing Association:

“While record and review falls short of this document’s definition of proctoring with respect to security and should not be used for programs requiring high levels of security, it does potentially offer improved security over testing in an unproctored setting, provided the videos are all actually reviewed following the test administrations and individuals reviewing the videos are given detailed information on how to identify suspicious behavior during an online test.”

Morgan said he did not have information to release on pricing or the number of colleges using the lower-cost option from ProctorU. But he said ProctorU has about 1,500 clients (some are colleges and universities as a whole, and others are divisions of colleges and universities). And he said that the number of colleges opting for the low-cost option was significant.

He said one reason for the increased attention has been the tremendous growth of remote proctoring during the pandemic.

ProctorU agreed to discuss the changes with Inside Higher Ed on the condition that we not seek out others to comment on them until today.

According to an April Educause poll, 54 percent of institutions were using online or remote proctoring services, while another 23 percent were considering or planning to use them. Even so, over half of the institutions polled said they were concerned about cost, as well as student privacy.

In April, the University of Michigan at Dearborn took the option of remote proctoring off the table. That followed by a year a notice to faculty members from the provost, which said, "Moreover, many students who are not in fully online programs -- which tend to use these software tools more frequently -- are demonstrably uncomfortable with what they perceive as an invasion of privacy by e-proctoring solutions. Given the circumstances of this transition to remote teaching, and the multiple stresses our students are experiencing, we strongly discourage you from resorting to e-proctoring solutions unless you have been using them routinely in your program and courses before this transition and unless the students were made aware of this on your syllabus. On the whole, it is our considered advice, after careful research into various available options by the Office of the Provost and the Hub, that redesigned final assessments as described above will prove more effective and fairer to students now and in the future."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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