Online exam proctoring no longer allowed for UC Berkeley classes

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Campus teaching assistants and instructors were barred from proctoring exams online for the remainder of the semester, according to a campuswide email sent by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos.

Though there are other options for proctoring online exams, the campus directive aims to ensure accessibility, that proctoring tools come at no cost to students and that students’ privacy is protected. The campus is currently exploring acceptable remote proctoring options but has not approved anything beyond a browser-lockdown option, according to electrical engineering and computer sciences professor John Canny.

“The campus has been studying online proctoring since the decision to move online,” Canny said in an email. “Their finding was that current options do not satisfy university policies related to privacy and access for people with disabilities.”

The campus directive follows a proposal made by Computer Science 189 TAs to proctor a midterm via Zoom with the goal of limiting potential incidences of academic dishonesty.

With the COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, pandemic placing students away from regular in-person classes at UC Berkeley, many are living in different time zones, making it challenging to take timed exams, according to campus senior Erin Liao.

“The rigidity of the proctoring raised a lot of concerns for students — including myself — who don’t have reliable access to Wi-Fi at home, suitable testing environments or even the technology to support online proctoring itself,” Liao said.

Any violations of the semester’s directive against online proctoring will result in students being able to request grade adjustments through the grade appeal process, which would be approved if an instructor violated these campus proctoring directives, according to the campuswide email.

The campus provided suggestions for instructors holding remote examinations other than enforcing a browser-lockdown, such as holding open-book exams, scheduling shorter tests and scheduling tests at a designated time.

“Instructors face serious and complex challenges in examination and evaluation this semester,” Alivisatos said in the email. “The manner in which colleges and universities across the country manage exams and determine grades will vary, though all will be outside the norm.”

With more than 700 students enrolled, the CS 189 midterm was ultimately held without proctoring and allowed for the use of outside materials such as an “unlimited amount of cheatsheets,” barring internet usage or collaboration with peers, according to Liao.

Liao added that while online proctoring is disallowed, living at home with her family has made balancing academics more challenging.

“I think it was definitely a good first jab at trying to restore normalcy to the class, but ultimately failed — not because of the course staff, and not because of the students, but because of the extreme situation we’re in,” Liao said.

Contact Olivia Buccieri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @obuccieri_dc‏.