The Minister of Education doesn't mind universities demanding the use of a second camera during online tests. Photo: DUB

Minister approves second camera for online proctoring

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Can universities use not one, but two cameras to film students during their online exams? For the Dutch Minister of Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven, institutions should be free to decide that for themselves.

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Privacy concerns regarding the use of cameras during online proctoring have been raised for nearly a year now. Many students have an issue with being filmed or under surveillance while they're taking a test or writing an assignment. Now Erasmus University Rotterdam is going a step further: in addition to using their laptop’s webcam, students are being required to use their mobile phones as a second camera. By doing so, the University hopes to prevent a new kind of cheating, according to a report published by Erasmus Magazine in January

Called to account
But they shouldn’t be able to get away with that without scrutiny, objected political party Partij voor de Dieren, who has taken a strong position against surveillance software from day one. The party inquired whether the Minister of Education was planning on calling Erasmus University to account.

She replied in a statement (in Dutch) that she is not willing to go that far. Instead, she calls on educational institutions to show restraint and only require the use of a second camera if it's “absolutely necessary”.

Another political party, the PvdD, was not satisfied with her answer. What about students' privacy, they asked. The minister answered that Erasmus University Rotterdam is following the rules. The university’s executive board also agreed that second cameras should not be used if a different method of assessment is available. Moreover, students who strongly object to online proctoring are already allowed to sit an alternative exam on campus.

At risk
The minister stressed that it's up to each institution to decide how best to deal with academic dishonesty. Other methods of assessment, such as open book exams and hand-in assignments, are already been widely used, but they simply don’t work when testing certain materials.

Furthermore, the minister argues that online proctoring can actually help some students, such as those quarantining at home, for example, or those who belong to a group at a higher risk for Covid-19. Last but not least, the minister suggested that online proctoring will remain a good option for athletes or students who care for others.

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