2020 was not an easy year for anyone. While we have heard a lot about smart working for workers, we have hardly discussed the conditions of another category: students, especially university students. In fact, universities throughout Italy have had to reinvent themselves to allow all students to be able to attend lessons and take exams. In this situation, certainly not simple, the universities have made various improvements to their systems which, however, have not always been sufficient. In fact, systems and lessons have often been blocked. The most difficult part, however, was the one concerning the remote exams . In this context, some universities have decided to rely on Respondus : the new control software for remote exams.
How Respondus works, the software that controls exams with Lockdown Browser
Students who take university exams face to face are supervised by professors and assistants, but when the exams are held remotely, checking becomes more complicated. How can professors make sure that hundreds of children around Italy do not copy? Students may have a second person suggesting in the room, they may open other tabs on the computer to search for answers, or they may communicate with each other. To avoid all this, many universities have opted for Respondus , the software that controls exams remotely with Lockdown browser. How does this program work? The software, in fact, uses a Lockdown browser system and a proctoring system. As the name ' lockdown' (which we have come to know) says, this system locks the PC on which it is installed. Therefore, once the browser is launched, students cannot open any tabs other than the exam tab. Thus, Respondus blocks the ability to share the screen, record the screen, start internet searches, use chats or other applications.
Respondus proctoring system to control exams remotely
Respondus , this new control software for remote exams, also uses a proctoring system, i.e. a monitoring system. In fact, once the exam session has started, the system starts recording via webcam. By resuming both user behavior and the surrounding environment, reporting suspicious behavior should it detect them. For example, if the student stands up, turns around or talks to someone else. Everything is then recorded and analyzed, so, once the exam is over, the software provides the teacher with an interpretation of the students' behavior . In this way, obvious misbehavior is reported immediately and, moreover, the teacher can review the recording for a more accurate check.
Did Respondus help or hinder students during their exams?
There are several Italian universities that have decided to adopt Respondus , the control software for remote exams. The students, however, are not very satisfied with this choice. In fact, Respondus created numerous inconveniences during the exams. These problems have often been solved by the professors, including through alternative solutions. The problem, however, remains. Students continue to take exams where the program suddenly stops working or does not correctly record the answers given. There are numerous testimonies of students forced to restart the exam due to a sudden closure of the browser. A discomfort that contributes to increasing anxiety and tension for the exam and that, on the other hand, decreases the student's concentration. In addition, communications or any clarifications regarding the exam are given by the teacher in a special support virtual classroom . This is not always kept under an eye by the student, who is already busy taking the test. If the software does not record the answers given, it is necessary to retake the exam or take an integrative oral exam. All this, of course, does not help the student.
Is Respondus useful for remote exam control?
These inconveniences are not one-offs of remote exams and, although they are treated promptly and best by teachers, they still represent a big problem. Respondus monitoring is certainly useful and effective, however, the problem of various malfunctions remains. In these cases, students have to rely on the common sense of teachers who, fortunately, often manage to find alternative solutions. The question to ask, therefore, is: is it really worth using Respondus ? It is certainly not easy to manage a university in an extraordinary situation like the one we are experiencing. The use of programs such as Respondus , control software for remote exams, greatly facilitates the management of various activities. But when this does not work properly and creates problems for the students, alternative solutions must be sought . Above all, when these discomforts are continuous and prolonged over time.
In short, the covid forced everyone (students, professors and the universities themselves) to face complex situations. Many solutions have been found and they have not always proved effective but, on the contrary, counterproductive. We can only hope that this situation will end as soon as possible and that, in the meantime, a better solution will be found to protect the students.