"I feel like I can’t take a test in my natural state anymore, because they’re watching for all these movements, and what I think is natural they’re going to flag," he told me. His dread of the software only increased after he was kicked out of an exam when a roommate dropped a pot in the kitchen, making a clang that rang through their apartment. He feared that, if he showed physical signs of anxiety, Proctorio was "going to send the video to the professor and say that suspicious activity is going on." The software, he said, "is just not accurate.

Last spring, during a Zoom meeting with a professor, Yemi-Ese learned that the software had flagged him for moving too much. "I had to try to calm down," he said. (Proctorio says that its software does not expel users from exams for noise.) By the time his professor let him back into the test, he had lost a half hour and his heart was racing. So I don’t know if it’s seeing things that aren’t there because of the pigment of my skin." (Harvard urged faculty to move toward open-book exams during the pandemic; if professors felt the need to monitor students, the university suggested observing them in Zoom breakout rooms.) Since last summer, several prominent universities that had signed contracts with Proctorio, including the University of Washington and Baylor University, have announced decisions either to cancel or not to renew those contracts.

Several institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, McGill, and the University of California, Berkeley, have either banned proctoring technology or strongly discouraged its use. "They have committed to paying for these services for a long time, and, once you’ve made a decision like that, you rationalize using the software." (Several universities previously listed as customers on Proctorio’s Web site told me that they planned to reassess their use of proctoring software, but none had made determinations to end their contracts.) Meanwhile, rising vaccination rates and schools’ plans to reopen in the fall might seem to obviate the need for proctoring software.

But some universities "have signed multi-year contracts that opened the door to proctoring in a way that they won’t just be able to pull themselves out of," Jesse Stommel, a researcher who studies education technology and the editor of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, said. (In a survey of college instructors conducted early in the pandemic, ninety-three per cent expressed concern that students would be more likely to cheat on online exams.) Some of these companies offer live proctoring underwritten by artificial intelligence.

When college campuses shut down in March, 2020, remote-proctoring companies such as Proctorio, ProctorU, Examity, and ExamSoft benefitted immediately. Proctorio’s list of clients grew more than five hundred per cent, from four hundred in 2019 to twenty-five hundred in 2021, according to the company, and its software administered an estimated twenty-one million exams in 2020, compared with four million in 2019.

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