Why are we being watched?

I am being recorded while taking tests for my online course.

Illustration by Jerry Meade

With this semester’s online format being new to most everyone, there are certain changes to the course formula that have taken time to get used to.

I’ve learned to expect and adapt to the increase in busy work and virtual demonstrations at this point in the semester.

Yet having a camera watch over me as I take a test will never cease to unnerve me.

I was confused at first why a course syllabus had a webcam included under the list of required materials.

Not long after, I figured out why.

The Lockdown Browser has to be used when taking chapter tests for this class.

Designed to “lockdown” one’s computer, the browser closes all other programs on student’s computer to prohibit cheating during test taking. This browser sounds somewhat reasonable in theory.

In reality, it seems to be an extreme invasion of privacy.

When the program first launches before the test begins, it informed me to be sure I have no study materials in front of me.

But it doesn’t trust me to follow these directions.

I am then asked to record a several second video of myself speaking out loud.

Demands like these continued throughout the setup process, and I complied with nearly all of them, including one that had me record a panoramic video of my surroundings.

Once these are all set in place, the test begins, recording you nonstop until it is submitted.

This verification has to be done every time before each test.

Why should I even have to do all of this recognition in the first place though?

It has to be acknowledged that students now taking online tests and quizzes are alone and unsupervised, allowing them to possibly cheat by referencing study materials or looking up answers.

However, shouldn’t college students be trusted enough to not cheat during test taking?

We are already expected to provide our own work for all classes, and any form of found plagiarism is met with extreme penalty by the college.

When students type up essays for English classes, they’re not recorded to make sure they’re not using someone else’s work as their own.

How is the integrity of honest, note-free test taking any different?

I’m honestly convinced the recording of students taking tests isn’t even audited.

And how could it be?

It’s a video recording that can be up to an hour long of a person just sitting at a screen and moving a mouse. The possibility of someone watching through all these videos to make out any slight shifted gaze or page turning sound is slim to none.

No computer algorithm could pick up on cues that minuscule either.

I’m convinced the whole recording process is simply just to instill a fear factor to students, while the recording is not even played back again.

I reached out to MCCC administration but did not receive any comment on the monitoring process.

Switching to a remote format, students are expected to have much more self-discipline for motivation and time management.

Being recorded strips away part of that increase in independence because, at the end of the day, we still can’t be trusted enough to take classes in an honest and moral way.

I don’t think the Lockdown Browser should be used in any class on campus.

It’s only if a majority of students make their complaints about this unfair restriction that they can get the trust they have qualified for since the day they were accepted at MCCC.