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Anti-Cheating Software Could Expand to Three Other NJ Universities

Verificient Technologies CEO Tells New Brunswick Today It Has Plans to Expand
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Verificient Technologies, the company behind ProctorTrack Verificient Technologies

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Online testing software called "ProctorTrack," known for its extensive monitoring and "anti-cheating" technology, could expand three additional universities in New Jersey, according to Verificient Technologies CEO Tim Dutta.

"There are three other schools that we're talking to right now in New Jersey that I'm aware of," Dutta told New Brunswick Today. 

As we reported last month, the software caused a controversy at Rutgers University when it was quietly implemented for an online class at the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

The software uses facial recognition ID and knuckle scanning, desktop monitoring, and audio and video surveillance to ensure that students do not cheat during exams, and that the person taking the exam is the same as the person enrolled in the online classs.

"Once that test starts, we start monitoring you, at 1,800 frames per second, and we make sure that it is supposed to be [the person] that is taking that test... that he doesn't leave during the sessions, that other people don't come in, that he doesn't open up browsers," Dutta told New Brunswick Today.

Students were surprised by the $32 fee for downloading the software, as well as concerned over how the data would be stored, and who would have access to.  Further, other students were concerned they could not use the software because their computers did not have a webcam.

In addition to Rutgers, ProctorTrack is in use at the University of Southern Florida, the University of Southern Carolina, Nevada State College, Maryville University-St. Louis, St. George's University, Cisco, eCornell, Flatworld Knowledge, Indiepay, Napa and the UNT Health Science Center. 

Rutgers, according to Dutta, has the largest enrollment out of all these institutions. 

"All the schools that are focusing on this today in New Jersey... are saying... 'We're gonna prove to the Department of Education that we have a process in place, so that we could get more opportunities for students to take these courses online, here in New Jersey, or all around the world.'"

Verificient's CEO declined to name any of the schools Verificient was in contact with regarding the further adoption of ProctorTrack.

The issue over ProctorTrack erupted when Rutgers senior Betsy Chao wrote a petition calling for an end to the monitoring software.

Within a month, the petition garnered over 800 signatures, though that rate of signing has slowed down since. 

"Emails about officially mandating the use of Proctortrack were sent out during the third week of classes," Chao wrote in the petition, adding that it was too late for students to withdraw at that point. 

Chao told New Brunswick Today that one of her own professors was not even fully aware of the requirement. 

In response to Chao's statements that the downloading of the ProctorTrack software was mandatory, University Spokesperson E.J. Miranda asserted that the software is not mandatory, and that there would be alternatives possible for students. 

James Ackman, the Director of Arts Online at Mason Gross, subsequently issued a statement highlighting three alternatives offered by the Center for Online and Hybrid Learning (COHILT). 

The first would be to reserve a computer which already has the software, at the COHILT computer lab.  Students could also use a computer at Alexander, Mabel Smith or Kilmer library, and temporarily download the software there. 

Students without webcams would also have the option to borrow a webcam from the Arts Online department.

And, finally, the COHLIT computer lab agreed to offer to arrange face-to-face proctoring for students who did not want to use the software at all.

But regardless of the option chosen, the student would still have to pay the $32 fee, officials said.

Ackman did not respond to inquiries by New Brunswick Today. 

Since the petition's emergence, University administration and Verificient have released statements stressing the legality, privacy and ethics of ProctorTrack.

"Arts Online in the Mason Gross School of the Arts has adopted it as the most cost effective and convenient method to comply with federal requirements," EJ Miranda wrote. 

Many students wrote that they were unaware of the purchase and download requirement until several weeks into the semester.

University Spokesperson E.J. Miranda stressed that the software falls in line with requirements from the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. 

Verificient Technologies issued a statement to Mason Gross online students in early February, maintaining that the software is permitted and regulated by Federal Trade Commission (FTC), guidelines, as well as those laid out by the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 

Online statements have also stressed that algorithms are put in place to flag any suspicious activity, at which point only then would an individual review the surveillance material.

Students also raised concerns over whether the disposal and protection of information would be sufficient. 

"Big contracts are given to companies like Proctortrack with limited restriction on data collection and unclear transparency protocols on how data is used," wrote Marilia Boyd, the piece's author.

Boyd quoted a New York Times article by Tyler Bosmeny that said, "Data isn’t inherently scary — what’s scary is when (higher education) leaders don’t have clear control over how data is used."

Student data would be deleted within 30-60 days of a course's final exam, according to the statement issued by Verificient.

But students hoping to save money by re-using the software in a future online course will be out of luck. 

"When a student takes one course, it's just a flat fee," said Dutta.  "If they take two courses, they have to pay for the second course. You're being verified per course and that's how it works."