A clear no to Examity

January 18, 2021

This past semester, SFU ran a pilot of Examity auto-proctoring software in a dozen courses. This software “locks down” the web browser, preventing students from accessing the internet from their computers while they are writing an exam. In addition, students are recorded while writing the exam, and artificial intelligence (AI) is used to identify “suspicious” behaviours. Instructors can then review flagged behaviour in combination with exam answers to decide whether filing an academic dishonesty report is warranted.

Although interest in some sort of auto-proctoring solution remains high at SFU, the pilot helped us conclude that current auto-proctoring products meet neither our expectations nor our needs.  

Although the web browser is “locked” by this class of software to prevent students from using their computers to search for answers online, we have evidence from the pilot that students who are incentivized to cheat can still access the internet through secondary devices like phones, and additionally use phones to collude with one another without detection by the AI feature of the software. Further, the browser lockdown does not prevent students from taking screen shots, which means exam integrity is not guaranteed (students can and do still share exam questions).   

Flags generated by the AI feature to identify suspicious behaviour tend to be so common as to be almost useless. Innocent behaviour such as moving lips while silently reading questions or looking down (rather than at the camera) while working out answers is flagged and becomes noise hiding any actual transgressions.

Finally, the experience was problematic for faculty and students alike, as technical challenges were common. Almost all pilot participants decided to discontinue the use of Examity after an initial midterm, as they felt the software did more harm than good. 

I can’t recommend a product that is so frustrating for faculty to use and frankly doesn’t ensure academic integrity in the way we had hoped. The main ways to strengthen academic integrity remain educating our students about our expectations and finding other pedagogical solutions for the assessment of student learning. Our SFU faculty have been incredibly creative in this regard and have also experimented with Zoom proctoring. The Centre for Educational Excellence will of course continue to support you in this work.

Elizabeth Elle
Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Learning & Teaching