When classes moved online for the fall semester, professors had no choice but to administer exams online as well. The transition from taking exams in a proctored classroom environment or the DELTA Testing Services has brought into question how professors can ensure that students are following the Code of Student Content on academic integrity while still being properly tested on the material they need to know.
One solution many students have experienced is professors utilizing lockdown browsers during exams. The Respondus Lockdown Browser prevents the usage of other URLs or applications while it is running. Other students reported their professors requiring their laptop camera to be turned on, through a program called Respondus Monitor, while they take the exam so they can’t use their notes, textbooks or other aids.
Francesca Balestrieri, a third-year studying biological sciences, has taken Organic Chemistry I and II and ST 311 since NC State went virtual. She has experienced the lockdown browser and monitor in all of these classes.
“We have to have our cameras and microphones on and take a 360-degree video of the room we are taking the test in,” Balestrieri said. “For statistics, they make us use the normal lockdown browser with no camera or microphone. We can access anything on the Moodle page if we want.”
According to Balestrieri, many students have complained that such programs are an invasion of privacy. Some professors have heard these complaints and removed the video feature of Respondus Monitor, but many classes continue to use it.
“If you are still in Raleigh, you can take the exam at DELTA Testing Center, or you can take it at an approved testing facility off campus,” Balestrieri said.
Making these options available would help eliminate the concern over a personal computer not supporting the program or having connectivity issues, according to Balestrieri.
Luke Wlcek, a second-year studying fashion and textile management, took Physics I over the summer and was required to use a lockdown browser during exams.
“My Wifi isn’t the best, so I had a couple of connection issues with it that I didn’t have with Moodle,” Wlcek said. “It is definitely not conducive to a good testing environment.”
Another concern that students are having as a result of different lockdown browsers is an increased feeling of test anxiety. Samantha Steffanus, a second-year studying psychology and business administration, spoke about this concern.
“Even though I am not cheating, it still makes my anxiety worse,” Steffanus said. “I worry that if the slightest thing goes wrong then I’ll be flagged for cheating.”
Steffanus said she has adjusted to the browser some since she started using it to take exams.
“At first, the lockdown browser negatively impacted my scores on tests, but since using it so much, it doesn’t have as much of an impact,” Steffenus said.
Clay Flinchum, a third-year studying engineering, describes the limitations on how students can take tests using Respondus.
“I did not know how to do a particular question, but still had a question left, and if the next question was difficult, it was going to take too much time, so I just guessed and moved on to make sure I had enough time left for the last section,” Flinchum said.
One of the stricter rules Respondus puts on students is the inability to flag questions and go back to them later. Also, in certain classes, particularly in physics courses, tests are broken into sections. Once a student completes the section, they must wait until the time runs out to go on to the next section, according to Flinchum.
“I finished that section and had to wait for 11 minutes before the next part opened, after practically guessing and skipping a question to make sure I had time,” Flinchum said. “If I had been able to go back, I would have been able to keep working on it, but I couldn’t.”
Many students have had to adjust to this new system of testing because it is required for their course. Some said that downloading the programs led to other computer problems, including being locked out of the computer or being unable to shut it down. Other computers cannot support downloading the program in the first place.
Michael Litavecz, a second-year studying chemical engineering and paper science and engineering, had a bad experience with using the lockdown browser.
“It froze one time and locked me out of my computer,” Litavecz said. “It is pretty bad. Very jankey, but there aren’t any better options.”
Many NC State courses are requiring students to download Respondus lockdown programs for exams, including EC 202, MA 242, FLS 101, PY205, PCC 302, MA 341, ECE 209 and MIE 305, most of which are high level STEM courses or language courses, according to the NC State subreddit.
Students have expressed their concerns with the lockdown browser and monitor, but it looks like it will be here to stay in order to enforce academic integrity in some capacity. For more information on the Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor, visit this page.