Comparing E-Proctoring Software to Hydroxychloroquine: An Apt Analogy

November 4, 2020
Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To help educators and administrators understand why I urge caution, and even skepticism about the use of e-proctoring software and other surveillance technologies such as those that lockdown students’ Internet browsers, here’s an analogy I have been using that seems to resonate:

In my opinion, e-proctoring software is to higher education what Hydroxycloroquine has been to the COVID-19 virus.

It’s not that e-proctoring software is bad, it is that it was never designed to be used under the current conditions. There are colleagues who would disagree with me about this kind of software being bad in principle. I accept their position. Let’s look at this through the eyes of scholar who is trained to reserve judgement on an issue without evidence to back it up. If we assume the software was designed for a specific purpose – to invigilate exams taken via a computer, then it fulfills that purpose. So, in that sense, it does what it is supposed to do. However, that is not the whole story.

We can turn to Hydroxychloroquine as an analogy to help us understand why we should be skeptical.

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria drug, also used to treat arthritis. It was never designed to be used against the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus. Hasty attempts to do research on the coronavirus, including studies on Hydroxychloroquine, have resulted in numerous papers now being retracted from scientific journals. People ran to this drug as a possible antidote the coronavirus, just as schools are running to e-proctoring software as an antidote for exam cheating. Neither e-proctoring software nor Hydroxychloroquine were designed to be used during the current pandemic. People flocked to them both as if they were some kind of magic pill that would solve a massively complex problem, without sufficient evidence that either would actually do what they so desperately wanted it to do.

The reality is that there is scant scientific data to show that e-proctoring actually works in the way that people want it to, that is, to provide a way of addressing academic misconduct during the pandemic. By “scientific data” I do not mean sales pitches. I am talking about independent scholarly studies undertaken by qualified academic researchers employed at reputable universities. By “independent scholarly studies” I mean research that has not been funded in any way by the companies that produce the products. That kind of research is terrifyingly lacking.

We need to back up for a minute and look about why we invigilate exams in the first place. To invigilate means “to keep watch over”. Keeping watch over students while they write an exam is part of ensuring that testing conditions are fair and objective.

The point of a test, in scientific terms, involves controlling all variables except one. In traditional testing, all other factors are controlled, including the conditions under which the test was administered such as the exam hall with desks separated, same lighting and environment for all test-takers, length of time permitted to take the test, how it is invigilated, and so on. All variables are presumably controlled except one: the student’s knowledge of the subject matter. That’s what’s being tested, the student’s knowledge.

Exams are administered in what could be termed, academically sterile environments. In an ideal situation, academic hygiene is the starting point for administering a test. Invigilation is just one aspect of ensuring academic hygiene during testing, but it is not the only factor that contributes to this kind of educational hygiene that we need to ensure testing conditions control for all possible variables except a student’s knowledge of the subject matter.

During the pandemic, with the shift to remote learning, we cannot control all the variables. We simply cannot assure an academically hygienic environment for testing. Students may have absolutely no control over who else is present in their living/studying quarters. They may have no control over a family member (including their own children) who might enter a room unannounced during a test. The conditions under which students are being tested during the pandemic are not academically hygienic. And that’s not their fault.

E-proctoring may address one aspect of exam administration: invigilation. It cannot, however, ensure that all variables are controlled.

As an academic integrity scholar, I am distressed by the lack of objective, peer-reviewed data about e-proctoring software. Schools have turned to e-proctoring software as if it were some kind of magic pill that will make academic cheating go away. We have insufficient evidence to substantiate that e-proctoring software, or any technology for that matter, can serve as a substitute for an in-person academically hygienic testing environment.

Schools that were using e-proctoring before the pandemic, such as Thompson Rivers University or Athabasca University in Canada, offered students a choice about whether students preferred to take their exams online, at home, using an e-proctoring service, or whether they preferred to drive to an in-person exam centre. During the pandemic, students’ choice has been taken away.

We all want an antidote to academic misconduct during remote learning, but I urge you educators and administrators to think like scholars and scientists. In other words, approach this “solution” with caution, and even skepticism. At present, we lack sufficient evidence to make informed decisions. Educators need to be just as skeptical about this technology and how it works during pandemic conditions as physicians and the FDA have been about using Hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus. Its use as being effective against the coronavirus is a myth. The use of e-proctoring software as being an effective replacement for in-person exams is also a myth, one perpetuated by the companies that sell the product.

Forcing surveillance technology on students against their will during a pandemic is tantamount to forcing an untested treatment on a patient; it is unethical to the extreme.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.


Participatory evaluation: 12 useful online resources

May 29, 2013

My students this semester have been interested in participatory evaluation. This sub-set of evaluation isn’t a major topic in our course this semester, but because so many of them are interested, I have pulled together a bit of a reading list for them on the topic so those who are interested can explore it further.

Here’s a list of 12 online articles, e-books and other resources on participatory evaluation:

Bragin, M. (2005). The community participatory evaluation tool for psychosocial programs: A guide to implementation. Intervention Journal, 3(1), 3-24. Retrieved from http://www.interventionjournal.com/downloads/31pdf/03_24%20bragin%20.pdf

Campilan, D. (2000). Participatory evaluation of participatory research. Paper presented at the Forum on Evaluation of International Cooperation Projects: Centering on Development of Human Resources in the Field of Agriculture. Retrieved from http://ir.nul.nagoya-u.ac.jp/jspui/bitstream/2237/8890/1/39-56.pdf

Canadian International Development Agency. (2001). How to perform evaluations: Participatory evaluations. Performance Review Branch Guides, (3). Retrieved from http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/INET/IMAGES.NSF/vLUImages/Performancereview4/$file/participatory_Evl.pdf

Checkoway, B., & Richards-Schuster, K.  Facilitator’s guide for participatory evaluation with young people. Available from http://ssw.umich.edu/public/currentprojects/youthAndCommunity/pubs/guidebook.pdf

Checkoway, B., & Richards-Schuster, K. (n.d.). Participatory evaluation with young people. Available from http://ssw.umich.edu/public/currentprojects/youthAndCommunity/pubs/youthbook.pdf

Cousins, J. B., & Earl, L. M. (1995). Participatory evaluation: Enhancing evaluation use and organizational learning capacity. The Evaluation Exchange: A Periodical on Emerging Strategies in Evaluation, 1(3-4). Retrieved from http://www.hfrp.org/evaluation/the-evaluation-exchange/issue-archive/participatory-evaluation/participatory-evaluation-enhancing-evaluation-use-and-organizational-learning-capacity

Guijt, I., & Gaventa, J. (1998). Participatory monitoring and evaluation: Learning from change. IDS Policy Briefing, (12). Retrieved from http://www.ids.ac.uk/files/dmfile/PB12.pdf

Lefevre, P., Kolsteren, P., De Wael, M.-P., Byekwaso, F., & Beghin, I. (2000). Comprehensive participatory planning and evaluation. Available from http://www.ifad.org/pub/bsf/cppe/cppe.pdf

Pant, M.  (n.d.) Participatory evaluation (PE). Available from http://www.unesco.org/education/aladin/paldin/pdf/course01/unit_09.pdf

Pastor, J., & Roberts, R., A. (1995). Participatory evaluation research as a catalyst for reform: An example from an urban middle school. The Evaluation Exchange: A Periodical on Emerging Strategies in Evaluation, 1(3-4). Retrieved from http://www.hfrp.org/evaluation/the-evaluation-exchange/issue-archive/participatory-evaluation/participatory-evaluation-research-as-catalyst-for-reform-an-example-from-an-urban-middle-school

Upshur, C. C., Barretto-Cortez, E., & Gaston Institute, M. (1995). What is participatory evaluation (PE)? What are its roots? The Evaluation Exchange: A Periodical on Emerging Strategies in Evaluation, 1(3-4). Retrieved from http://www.hfrp.org/evaluation/the-evaluation-exchange/issue-archive/participatory-evaluation/what-is-participatory-evaluation-pe-what-are-its-roots

Zukoski, A., & Luluquisen, M. (2002). Participatory evaluation: What is it? Why do it? What are the challenges. Community -Based Public Health Policy and Practice, (5). Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/pdf_files/Evaluation.pdf

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Strength-based approaches to evaluating literacy and language learning

July 4, 2011

Looking for new ways to assess literacy and language learning that focus on students’ strengths, instead of their weaknesses? So was I. I started digging, found some resources and compiled them into an annotated bibliography, that’s just been archived on ERIC.

Alternative and Asset-Based Evaluation and Assessment in Language Teaching and Literacy: Resources for Research, Classroom Instruction and Evaluation of Language Competence

Full text report available from ERIC. (Release date: June 1, 2011): http://1.usa.gov/lf2NvT

This annotated bibliography surveys key resources and research related specifically to language learning and literacy. It focuses on resources that will be valuable to teaching professionals and researchers who specialize in the areas of foreign and second language teaching, language arts and first and second language literacy.

Significant theoretical research and applied classroom practice has been done in the field of alternative assessment, and specifically in area of using portfolios and e-portfolios (Barrett, 2010; Brear, 2007; Dominguez, 2011; JISC, 2008; Meuller, 2011; North Carolina Regional Educational Laboratory, n.d.; Shao-Ting & Heng-Tsung).

The practice of using portfolios for second and foreign language teaching has increased in popularly, with an increased understanding and adoption of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe, 2001). Almost simultaneously, there has been a rise in the use of similar frameworks in the field of literacy (Alberta Advanced Education and Technology, 2009; Literacy BC, n.d.)

However, there is little collaboration between those who work in literacy and those who teach second and modern languages (Eaton, 2010).

This annotated bibliography is an attempt to collect, select and share resources that may be relevant, helpful and useful to professionals working in both the second language and literacy sectors. The deeper values that guide this work are predicated on the belief that researchers and practitioners working in both fields have much in common and would benefit greatly from increased dialogue and shared resources. A bibliography is included.

Related posts:

Using Portfolios for Effective Learning

27 Great Resources on Using Portfolios for Language Learning and Literacy

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


27 Great Resources on Using Portfolios for Language Learning and Literacy

June 10, 2011

Some of my favorite resources for using portfolios, strength-based and asset-based evaluation and assessment for language learning. I’ve divided them into practical resources for the classroom language teachers, video resources and research resources for students and scholars. The resources cover a range of topics related to languages and literacy including:

  • portfolios for younger learners
  • portfolios for adult learners
  • foreign and second language teaching
  • literacy and ESL

Practical Resources for Language Teachers

Portfolio Assessment in the Foreign Language Classroom

An amazing online resource that’s part of the Portfolio Assessment Project conducted by the The National Capital Language Resource Center (NCLRC), a consortium of Georgetown University, The George Washington University, and the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Assessment and Independent Language Learning

This site is a veritable cornucopia of resources on strength-based assessment from the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies in the UK.

Global Language Portfolio

A project headed up by Patricia Cummins, the Global Language Portfolio (GLP) is an electronic document used by learners, teachers, educational institutions, employers and other organizations to present information about language. It promotes language learning and the development of cultural competence, and it is modeled on the European Language Portfolio (ELP).

Independent Language Learning

This site by the University of Manchester covers a number of aspects of independent language learning, including assessment. But it goes further than that. It also talks about how learners can set goals and stay motivated.

Portfolios in English Language Teaching (ELT)

A site from the BBC that talks mostly about using portfolios to use English, but the principles can be applied to any language. They also reference the Council of Europe’s portfolio page.

A Resource for Integrating Collaborative Language Portfolio Assessment (CLPA) into the Teaching-Learning Cycle of Adult ESL Instruction (Manitoba Best Practices)

A 68-page downloadable .pdf that includes best practices and examples. It is directed towards adult ESL learners, but the principles could be applied for any language.

The European Language Portfolio: A Guide for Learners (15+)

An 8-page downloadable .pdf on the European Language Portfolio. I love the simple, plain language approach of this resource.

Junior European Language Portfolio

The junior version of the European Language Portfolio is a Council of Europe initiative, launched in the 2001 European Year of Languages. The ELP provides pupils with a record of their achievements and progress in languages. Junior European Languages Portfolio.

Downloadable e-copy of European Language Portfolio – Junior version

A 36-page .pdf resource teachers can use with their junior students. Hard copies are available for sale from the National Centre for Languages, but this electronic version is free.

Downloadable Teachers’ Guide on Using the European Language Portfolio – Junior version

This teachers’ guide accompanies the Junior Language Portfolio. Like the portfolio itself, hard copies are available for sale from the National Centre for Languages. This 26-page .pdf version is free.

Student Portfolios in the Foreign Language Classroom – FLTEACH FAQ

A great synopsis prepared by Lee Risley that includes topics such as the purpose of a portfolio, contents of a portfolio, assessment of portfolios and resources.

Video Resources

World Language Assessment: Using Feedback in Assessment (15:06)

A production of Wisconsin Public Television. Jennifer Block, Kari Ewoldt, and Jaci Collins use literature circles, LinguaFolio, and student portfolios to provide students with the crucial feedback they need as they continue to learn and grow.

European Language Portfolios

A series of five videos. This series is a recording of a webinar of a live presentation on the European Language Portfolio by Margarete Nezbeda, project coordinator of the ECML-project Training Teachers to use the European Language Portfolio. I recommend watching them in order, otherwise it seems a bit disjointed. Here are the links to: Part 1 (09:58), Part 2 (09:48), Part 3 (09:59), Part 4 (07:03), Part 5 (07:16)

Research Materials

Student Reflection in Portfolio Assessment: Making Language Learning More Visible

By Viljo Kohonen at the University of Tampere, this article was published in Babylonia in 2000. It’s available as a 6-page .pdf download and it addresses topics such as visible and invisible outcomes in language learning, how to increase visibility of learning using portfolios, how to get started, and how to get students thinking about learning processes.

Portfolio Assessment and English Language Learners: An Annotated Bibliography

By Emily Lynch Gómez, published by the Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory at Brown University. This 25-page .pdf download addresses topics such as performance assessment, using portfolios at the state and district levels and classroom-based use of portfolios.

An Introduction to Electronic Portfolios in the Language Classroom

An article by Sadia Yasser Ali in the Internet TESL Journal. This research article gives an introduction to portfolios before offering ideas on how to use electronic portfolios in language classrooms; the steps of developing electronic portfolios and the technological requirements for developing them.

Portfolio Assessment in Simulation for Language Learning

By Amparo García-Carbonell, Frances Watts and Beverly Rising, this 6-page article published by the Tilburg University Press discusses experiences from two different universities in three different fields of study. The principal purpose of the simulations used is to learn English as a second or foreign language within a specific field of study.

Enhancing the pedagogical aspects of the European Language Portfolio (ELP)

This document (in .doc format) is published by the Council of Europe. More of a research document than for classroom practical use.

Development and Implementation of Student Portfolios in Foreign Language Programs

Developed by the California Foreign Language Project, this website contains a variety of pages including: purpose of a portfolio, audience of a portfolio, method, analysis and results, conclusions and recommendations.

Using a Literacy Portfolio in a Third-Grade Class

A 30-page .pdf download by Caroline Kuperschmid, Third-Grade Teacher, and Sandra Cerulli, Reading Specialist. Contains information on how to implement reading-writing portfolios in class and authentic examples from grade 3 students.

Literacy Portfolio Assessment: A Resource for Literacy Workers

Don’t be fooled by the “older” look of the front page of resource. It’s a solid 71-page resource by Maurice Taylor, University of Ottawa. Includes topics such as testing and assessment in adult education, alternative assessment, and how to develop a literacy portfolio.

Portfolios: Assessment in Language Arts

A brief overview of using portfolios for assessment in language arts courses by Roger Farr, archived by the ERIC Clearninghouse on Reading and Communication Skills.

A Case Study of Using Portfolios to Make Language Learning More Visible at a Japanese Senior High School

A 6-page research article by Kenji Nakayama. (You may need to install Japanese character fonts on your Adobe reader to access this resource.)

The European Language Portfolio and its Potential for Canada

By Rehorick, S., & Lafargue, C. (2005) this paper is from the Proceedings of a conference held at the University of New Brunswick.

Related posts:

Student portfolios for Language Learning: What They Are and How to Use Them

Also, you can check out my Diigo list on Learning Portfolios.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment

June 9, 2011

Thanks to the Ontario Literacy Coalition (OLC) for inviting me to be part of their webinar series. In case you missed the program this week on “New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: Implications for Evaluation and Assessment” you can watch the recording here:

Here’s the link to program, too: http://youtu.be/6iH_ikNmn9I

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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