Honorlock: What the online proctor does and doesn’t do
Even in the best of times, the term “proctoring” can be a bit anxiety producing. Add in being in a global pandemic that’s upending all corners of our lives, including how we teach and learn, and it can become even more stressful.
The fact is, we have had to change how we do a lot of things in the past few months. And yes, that includes a shift in how instructors proctor exams in many courses.
Some instructors are now using Honorlock, an automated proctoring service recently added to the university’s suite of digital teaching and learning tools. Honorlock helps instructors create a responsible, fair test-taking environment online, where students can demonstrate their own independent learning. Yet instructors still retain responsibility for reviewing students taking the quiz or exam, setting parameters for the test-taking environment, and determining when academic misconduct occurs, as they would in an in-person classroom. Only instructors review the information captured during an exam or assessment.
Honorlock is being used in higher education institutions worldwide and was used in over 3,000 exams in UW–Madison courses over the summer. Many instructors and students shared that Honorlock was easier to use than expected. Like all centrally supported tools, Honorlock has undergone a systematic and rigorous vetting and approval process including our campus legal and technology experts.
Many students and others across campus are still learning about the tool, and have voiced some questions and concerns.
Here are some key takeaways about what Honorlock does and does not do.
Honorlock automated proctoring does…
- provide a secure and equitable learning environment for students when taking exams.
- integrate with Canvas, and offer customizable settings that allow instructors to set test-taking parameters such as using a calculator, certain websites (if any), or paper and pencil to show work while solving problems.
- accommodate students’ accessibility needs. In consultation and coordination with the McBurney Disability Resource Center, instructors work with students and their assigned Access Consultant to make the necessary accommodations in Honorlock, such as allowing for longer testing periods, using additional resources or using a screen reader.
- use a Google Chrome browser extension and artificial intelligence (AI) to track and/or limit student activity during a quiz or exam (the extension only operates while a student is taking an exam, and can be uninstalled thereafter, if the student chooses).
- denote (aka “flags”) certain behaviors or unusual activity during an exam, which only instructors review afterwards and have the ability to determine if academic misconduct has occurred.
- protect student privacy through FERPA. All information collected during an exam is FERPA protected and is used for educational purposes only. Only UW–Madison personnel with legitimate educational interest in the records may have access to student data.
Honorlock does not…
- does not definitively prove that academic misconduct occurs – instructors must review any “flagged” behavior, taking into consideration any information the student may have provided about their test-taking environment, and make a determination about if the behavior is acceptable or not based on predetermined testing parameters.
- does not cost anything to students.
- does not directly monitor secondary devices, such as tablets or phones, or network traffic other than the student’s on their own computer.
- does not sell student information to third parties.
Tips for students
Proactively communicate with your instructors – Students may face a variety of challenges when taking exams online. These may include access to reliable internet or technology, or a quiet, disruption-free test-taking space. We strongly encourage students to share this information with their instructor(s) at the beginning of the semester and before taking a test through Honorlock. If any unexpected events occur while taking an exam, students should proactively share them with their instructor. Examples include people or pets entering their testing space, unexpected noises or needing to take a bathroom break.
Create a new Chrome profile – When downloading the Chrome extension, create a new Chrome profile to use during your quiz or exam. This adds extra security and privacy if you are concerned about the extension software outside of testing.
Review the exam settings and guidelines set up by your instructor so you are prepared just as you would be for any in-person proctored exam. It is important to know what is and is not allowed. It’s also important to understand that when an instructor decides to use Honorlock, a student cannot opt out of the proctoring process; it is a condition of enrollment in the course. This would be the case if the instructor proctored an in-class exam.