The pandemic showed remote proctoring to be worse than useless

Kill it with fire.

Cory Doctorow


EFF’s remote proctoring graphic: two young students flank a person in gown and mortarboard; they respectively hold a book and a tablet, and dotted lines join those items to a giant floating eyeball hovering over a columnated building on the horizon.

Before covid, “remote proctoring” tools were a niche product, invasive tools that spied on students who needed to take high-stakes tests but couldn’t get to campus or a satellite test-taking room. But the lockdown meant that all students found themselves in this position.

This could have prompted educators to reconsider the use of high-stakes tests. After all, high-stakes testing has well-understood limitations in pedagogy, and organizes education around a highly artificial ritual completely unlike the rest of scholarly and industrial life.

It’s not like anyone does a job where you are prohibited from consulting reference texts or collaborating with your colleagues (if you have an colleague who does this, you should probably ask to be transferred to another team).

While in the academy, neither scholars nor researchers work without collaboration or access to references. It’s not clear what, exactly, a high-stakes test measures, apart from your ability to engage in the useless, non-transferrable skill of sitting a high-stakes test.

But rather than rethinking assessment, educational institutions doubled down on remote proctoring, throwing stupendous sums at companies that made outrageous promises about their ability to automatically detect cheating with “AI.”

While this threw every student into a meat-grinder of opaque algorithmic cruelty, not every student suffered equally. In “Rejecting Test Surveillance in Higher Education,” Georgetown Law’s Lindsey Barrett describes the unequal and disproportionate harms.

While Barrett’s paper is long and thoughtful, the introduction tells five stories, smartly making the case that if you are already marginalized, remote proctoring hurts you more than your fellows, magnifying your existing disadvantages.

Jazi: “a first-generation student” and caretaker (thanks to covid), who “was flagged for ‘suspicious noise’” (small children) “by the software recording her take an exam in her family’s home,” who “emptied her bank account to pay for on-campus housing.”