Dear Concordia University,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Concordia student body regarding the final exams and the decision to use online proctoring. We are urging you to change your decision about having online proctored exams. For many, this is an appalling invasion of privacy, a security risk, a demand for students to trade their morals for a grade, and discrimination against the less fortunate among the student body. In addition, over 7000 thousand Concordia students are against online proctoring.
An invasion of privacy Forcing cameras and microphones into the homes of students is a violation of everyone's online privacy. For some, this might not be a huge concern, but for many others it's spying on your home. Students do not want to have their identities exposed online, and that's exactly what this risks doing. Asking to have access to tracking body movement, logging mouse movement, clipboard access, etc. is asking students to install spyware, plain and simple. We will not have it. In addition to the immediate dangers of privacy, this also has much longer term societal ramnifications in the normalization of suvereilance. Should the university by any metric deem this a successful solution, then it gives the green light to continue doing this. It's a noramlization of revoking privacy, which sets a very dangerous precedent.
A security risk As many universities move to online learning and exams, platforms for conducting such work are going to become the target of malicious attacks. Students are being asked to compromise their digital security to install platforms such as Proctorio. Proctorio is a piece of software that gives an unreasonable amount of monitoring power of your computer. Access to the clipboard, access to looking at their tabs, access to logging mouse movement, etc. This is an absurd amount of monitoring power that no one should be forced to install on their computer. Concordia University is, in every sense, demanding students to install Spyware on their computers to receive a passing grade. The idea that Proctorio is a secure piece of software is simply absurd. Using buzzwords such as "military grade" is meaningless, and can be claimed by almost every major piece of software in the world. Every piece of software has flaws, every piece of software has exploits, and with platforms such as Proctorio gaining traffic from universities are going to do nothing but make them more and more of a target for malicious behavior.
A demand for students to trade their morals for a grade There are many students at this university who make conscious decisions about the type of software they use. Students who do not use operating systems such as Windows, students who do not use web browsers such as Google Chrome, student who do not use software that requires unnecessary access to your computer. Forcing students to use this software is a demand for students to trade their morals for a grade. For many students, using software such as Proctorio or even Google Chrome is a violation of their morals. When students are fighting to make good decisions and fighting to have control over the types of companies they support, you are taking away their freedom asking them to install this software.
Discrimination against the less fortunate among the student body Students who do not have home internet, students who need to watch young children, students living in abusive households, students who can't afford a laptop, students who can't afford a webcam or microphone, etc. I know the university has offered to loan laptops and webcam equipment to students, but then that's asking immuno-compromised people to leave their homes to pick up a laptop, that they have no guarantees has been properly disinfected, and to bring that into their home. No student should need to do that, and asking it of students is simply unfair. Students who are single parents or living in abusive households can not guarantee a space conducive to taking an exam.
I ask that you please reconsider your decision to be hosting an online examination in this manner as it will not be accepted by a large number of students. Alternatives that other universities are taking, such as our neighbors McGill and UQAM:Open book exams. This gives students the ability to take the exam without monitoring as the exam is open book anyways. Allow the exam to be taken over a much longer period of time and any time within a two week period. Students who have other responsibilities (such as being single parents) when they're at home won't fail like this due to circumstances out of their control. This will also allow them to not fail if their internet cuts out as Proctoriocould. Allow the option to take the exam online via moodle or some other source, or to mail/email in a scan of a written version for students who don't have laptops or frequent internet access.
- A final project. Give an un-timed final project to submit. Give students 2 weeks to work on it, and submit it on moodle like any other project.
- Redistribution of grades from assignments and midterms. Weigh the midterms and assignments more heavily and simply don't add another assessment, exam or project.
- Giving the option to take your current grade as your final grade. UQAR is doing this, and we think it's another potential good option. Even if students still take their final exam, everyone is under a lot of pressure right now and it will cause them to do poorly on any future assessments that they need to. Giving the option to take their current grade as their final grade allows students to not do poorly due to mental health struggles related to anxiety.
- A combination of possible options. Take the students current grade as-is or give them the option of a single final project. No assignment 4 or group project, just a final project. Maybe current grade as-is or finish assignments that have been given and have grades redistributed. Maybe give the option for a final or to have grades redistributed. Give students the option as everyone is living under vastly different circumstances.
Thank you for your understanding, we really hope that you consider some of the options presented above and actively dissuade professors from continuing on this path to proctored exams as McGill and most other universities have done. We understand that we need to adapt to the situation at hand and that things are changing in the world very rapidly. We are not naive. But there's much better solutions that this online proctoring.
Thank you for your understanding, and we hope that you reconsider your decision.
Students of Concordia University.