North Texas Daily

Students, faculty grapple with online testing procedures

Students, faculty grapple with online testing procedures

Students, faculty grapple with online testing procedures
November 15
14:00 2020

As many classes moved to online hosting or remote learning for this fall semester, some students and faculty have criticized how certain professors are handling their online classes and testing.

Alejandro García, a 28-year-old education major, said he “always loved online classes,” but he does not feel like enough time was spent training and familiarizing university professors with lecturing with software.

“Tech issues with Zoom, Google Drive and other apps we use in class always create a delay and distraction,” García said.

He said he is not a fan of the Respondus LockDown Browser, either. The Browser disables multiple functions on a user’s device in order to prevent cheating and it’s usage has required some students to use devices with webcams. Those who set up a test with LockDown can also require students to use the webcam to scan their surroundings, a move García called “invasive.”

“I believe that proctoring software is invasive by requiring me to scan the ceiling, my lap and eye-tracking,” García said. “My home is personal so whenever I have to be proctored online, I go outside to do it. I do not trust it. It also takes up a lot of space on my computer that is valuable for other stuff.”

One faculty member not in favor of LockDown is Julie Levanthal, a Principal Lecturer at the Honors College. Levanthal said she has “heard horrible experiences from the students about the Respondus lockdown browser,” and refuses to use it for any of her online exams.

“Everyone is so worried that students are going to cheat,” Leventhal said. “But they don’t realize that the Lockdown Browser produces. […] That anxiety may result in behaviors and mannerisms that then make a student look like they’re cheating, regardless. It’s ridiculous.”

For a remote class, she recently gave a timed midterm with 50 questions and open notes.

“They could use their notes because I can’t control whether or not they do that,” Leventhal said. “They still had to study because they had a time limit and can’t look up every single thing in that amount of time. It worked last week, it’s worked the multiple times I’ve used that format in the past. Students have appreciated getting to utilize some resources, but still having to plan or prep ahead.”

While protocols in online testing and lecturing vary between the university’s various schools and departments, the Division of Digital Strategy and Information (DSI) has the Center for Learning Experimentation, Application and Research (CLEAR), an apparatus assisting faculty in how they carry out online teaching and testing.

CLEAR is headed by Vice President of DSI Adam Fein and it’s Assistant Vice President, Rudi Thompson. When asked about criticism towards online testing, Fein said he understood both students and staff were experiencing difficulties.

“We have offered online testing for years, so for some faculty and students it is nothing new,” Fein said. “There are far more students and faculty now taking their exams online than before, and because it is new and different, we understand it can take time to become familiar.”

To those experiencing difficulty with their remote or online classes, Fein said they should work with their professors to address any issues they currently face.

“We understand that the online format is new to some students and will continue to try to assist faculty in providing a world-class experience for our students,” Fein said. “In late spring/early summer, we created an eight-step module training series that is now available online on-demand.”

While students will still have to contend with online classes and testing, the upcoming spring semester will include more in-person classes. This year, 50.4 percent of classes were face-to-face. The upcoming spring semester will rise to 64.6 percent, according to Provost Jennifer Cowley. Vice President Thompson further confirmed an increase would be the case.

“The current plan for spring, depending on COVID numbers over the winter, is to increase the number of in-person courses versus what has been offered this fall,” Thompson said. “Of course, that still leaves a large number of courses that will be offered as remote, online or hybrid.  There are many positives to remote learning, including flexibility, safety and the opportunity for faculty to connect through live office hours.  I would propose that those positives far outweigh the negative perceptions that often surround online testing.”

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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