Honorlock Alarms Students

Exam proctoring technology tracks student behavior to prevent cheating


Oliver Girouard, Staff Writer

The exam proctoring software Honorlock is still being utilized at SCC for some classes despite a ruling by a federal court last year deeming the program unconstitutional. The program is used to surveil students when they take online exams in an effort to combat cheating. Some students feel uneasy about how Honorlock tracks their behavior.

A federal judge sided with a student from Cleveland State University last year after he alleged Honorlock was unconstitutional for violating the fourth amendment. Honorlock uses a variety of ways to track students during online exams, including using students’ computer webcams, microphones and a controversial eye-tracking software that is known to be tripped up by students crying.

Before students take an exam with Honorlock, they must virtually scan their room with their webcam for an Honorlock employee to show that they have no additional devices or notes present during the exam. Students are also required to show their ID to Honorlock to prove their identity. “I think it’s pressuring, with that AI watching me the whole time,” says Leah Ederer in reference to the artificial intelligence program that tracks students eye movements. Honorlock was used on Ederer for quizzes in her abnormal psychology class taught by Don Christensen.

Christensen employs Honorlock on his quizzes and exams because he doesn’t want students rifling through Google and course materials during the exam. “That’s not what I want my exams to be like because they were never like that when I was teaching face-to-face,” said Christensen. Professors with teaching styles heavy on memorization and core understanding have been faced with the dilemma of whether to change to open-note exams or keep proctoring exams over the web through programs like Honorlock. If professors choose Honorlock, students must endure a privacy-violating program.

“I’d be willing to turn it off,” said Christensen. Earlier this year he sent SCC’s eLearning department the article about Honorlock being unconstitutional. His best guess is that most technology-involved faculty have been too busy working on the ransomware attack at SCC to have any time to focus on other projects.

Although Honorlock promises that your personal data will not be sold to any third parties, SCC students still have the right to be skeptical about “protected” personal information. At the end of winter quarter, SCC endured a devastating ransomware attack that left campus Wi-Fi and every computer on campus unusable. What’s more, the hackers responsible for the attack obtained personal information from students stored on campus servers. So although Honorlock may have more robust cybersecurity compared to SCC, the possible threat of personal data being leaked to third parties is very real.

Privacy violations aside, Honorlock simply makes students feel uncomfortable. “I was honestly creeped out by it,” said Ederer. Before online learning became the norm during the pandemic, most students didn’t have to worry about their rooms being presentable for professors eyes or if their life at home were too disruptive to take proctored online exams without interruptions from family members or others.

Lex Moreno, another student who has had Honorlock used on his exams, says “I never really thought about it too much. It is creepy if someone can consistently watch what you are doing though. Also the way it can track your ID and everything. I guess it is a little bit weird that you’re on camera for that whole time and people can kind of just watch you.”

However, if a student is uncomfortable with Honorlock, some classes allow an alternative. “If they don’t like Honorlock they can use the testing center on campus,” said Christensen. The testing center at SCC offers a more traditional test-taking atmosphere, with a room full of computers and a human being in person monitoring the test-taking. It should be noted that the burden of commuting to campus would now be on the student who wanted to opt out of having this surveillance software utilized.

Technology plays a crucial role in how teachers teach and how students learn and cheat. Honorlock violates privacy and makes students uncomfortable, but it is also more effective than the honor system. The playing field is becoming leveled, as students are also equipped with advanced technologies such as ChatGPT and other generative A.I. systems.