A Call To Action: Prioritizing Student Rights and Privacy



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This year, OLC invited some of our Accelerate 2020 sponsors to share stories with our membership, as a way to contextualize their services and invite conversation with and within our membership. This blog post is one of those stories.

While COVID-19 took over the headlines for 2020, the EdTech industry saw a growing concern over student privacy and data security. In an effort to address some of those concerns, ProctorU sought input from faculty and academic leaders which led to the draft and release of a Student Bill of Rights for Remote and Digital Work. One of those academic leaders is Dr. Amy Smith, Chief Learning Officer of Straighterline, Inc, a college readiness company offering online general education courses.

“This Bill of Rights is a worthy start to establishing baseline rights students can expect for online assessment submission, evaluation, tracking, and storage procedures. I look forward to being a part of its evolution,” Dr. Smith said about the initiative.

While it serves as a proclamation for our own priorities, the Student Bill of Rights was created to encourage continued dialogue with academic institutions, instructors, students, and other EdTech companies that hold student privacy in high regard. This call-to-action is not only about setting our own standards, but leading the way for new industry-wide standards.

Historically, questions about data – what we collect, why we collect it, how we use it and how long we store it – came from institutions during the vetting and proposal process. However, last year the number of direct student questions rose greatly. The timing is understandable though. With COVID-19 turning traditional education upside down, students were forced to move to online learning and testing whether they liked it or not – and quickly. Unfortunately, students weren’t always given all the information about the software and tools they were being made to use. So the combination of a lack of choice and a lack of information created increased anxiety, raised suspicion, and ultimately led to viral misinformation and petitions.

ProctorU understands these concerns, so we drafted seven specific points in the Student Bill of Rights; reasonable expectations for any student being asked to use a digital tool.

  1. Have Your Questions Answered
  2. Have Your Work Presumed To Be Honest And Accurate
  3. Expect Compliance With All Privacy Laws And Policies
  4. Review And Understand Policies Protecting You And Your Work
  5. Review And Understand Policies Keeping Others From Disadvantaging You
  6. Understand Data Collection, Retention And Dissemination
  7. Expect That Data Collection Be Specific And Limited

We’re not here to create anxiety or trauma for students. ProctorU was founded 13 years ago to help ensure the equity of a student’s hard-earned degree or certification, while also giving them the freedom to test in a more comfortable and private environment of their choice. So the response to privacy concerns cannot simply be: just don’t proctor exams. The unfortunate truth is that some students will try to take advantage of and cheat in an unproctored environment.

Texas A&M released a statement on a cheating investigation they believe to have resulted from the pandemic and an increased number of online courses and assignments.

“Instead of taking an assessment in class where the teacher is watching you, you are at your computer not being watched. The opportunity has just increased dramatically to use online sources,” said Rachel Davenport, vice chair of the Honor Code Council, which reviews academic misconduct cases.

The official university statement also added, “Far from being a benign problem, contract cheating has implications for credibility of academic degrees, institutional accreditation and for society as a whole, as the students who engage in contract cheating graduate, enter the workforce, and move into leadership positions.”

EdTech services, such as online proctoring, strive to provide confidence; confidence for students in their education, confidence for instructors in content security, and confidence that all information and data is safe. So we are inviting all OLC members and supporters to join us in the movement towards an industry standard of expectations for student fairness and privacy in digital learning and assessment. Together, critical discussions and transparent communication can help students feel as comfortable with digital learning as they are with in-person learning.

If you would like to join us in the Student Bill of Rights initiative, please fill out our form at studenttestingrights.org.

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