In just the first week of exams, hundreds of students have already been affected by ProctorU technical errors, with at least 56 exams affected in total.
The entire cohort of MATH1002: Linear Algebra was stuck loading ProctorU for at least 20 minutes and for some, an hour or more. Similar situations have been reported for chemistry, neuroscience, statistics, and nursing units.
In other cases, students have been able to access ProctorU but have then had to reload and restart numerous times during the setup period, with one student having had to restart the program more than eight times. In more dire circumstances, multiple students have reported being disconnected part way through their examinations, with no way of getting back on.
Even when able to access their examinations in time, students say the distress these wait times and technical errors inflict not only upon their academic performance, but also their personal mental wellbeing, is something which has not been factored into assessment policy.
Sydney University Engineering Undergraduates Association (SUEUA) President and USU Board Director Cole Scott-Curwood noted the effect this has had on the mental health of students, particularly those in STEM.
“COVID-19 has exacerbated challenges to student mental health. It has also brought a decrease in education quality, despite the best efforts of teaching staff. In addition to privacy concerns and data breaches, virtual proctoring has been continuously unreliable. All of these factors, combined with the high workload inherent to STEM degrees, have increased the strain on STEM students throughout the tumult of COVID.”
Every student Honi has heard from has also reported untenable online support services, with long queues and unhelpful or unknowledgeable operators to blame. One student in particular was 524th in line for support, with another sitting at 390th.
In some cases, the program isn’t even achieving its one goal: to proctor students. In online proctored exams with physically written components, students have been allotted unproctored time to scan and upload their worksheets. During this period, students are free to change their answers (which in some cases amount to 50% of the total mark) with complete access to online resources.
A student organised petition calling for the ‘dissolution’ of ProctorU received over 400 signatures in just one day (June 15-16).
A University spokesperson told Honi that the University was aware “some students are experiencing technical issues when undertaking online proctored exams, and apologise for any disruption caused.”
The University has requested that ProctorU investigate failings “as a matter of urgency” and where the University is aware of errors, students will not be required to submit a special consideration application and all students in affected assessments will be contacted to be offered a replacement exam.
Many students continue to wonder why the University continued to contract ProctorU after its miserable performance in last year’s exam period.
In a statement to Honi, SRC President Swapnik Sanagavarapu said that “the experience of the past few days indicates what we’ve all already known – that not only is ProctorU an unjustified imposition on the privacy and cybersecurity of students, it is also grossly ineffective. At a time of belt tightening and cuts throughout the University, there are clearly savings to be made in eliminating the redundant service of ProctorU.”