By Wilfredo Rodríguez, Coordinator, EdTech

Academic integrity is an essential part of education at all levels. It is extremely important in higher education that every institution demonstrates a high quality of education by ensuring students earn their degrees honestly, without cheating. All colleges and universities have processes in place to handle academic dishonesty for face-to-face classes and for online colleges or online programs. However, due to COVID-19, all classes were forced to move online in March 2020, and this hindered academic integrity policies impractical for in-person learning. Many technological tools exist to combat or minimize academic dishonesty in the online environment. The focus of this article is to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of using the Respondus LockDown Browser tool to minimize academic dishonesty in the online environment as well as in-person learning.

Phone with a lock

During the spring 2021 semester, CUNY acquired the services of Respondus to combat online cheating: specifically, the LockDown Browser tool. Among its advantages, it prevents students from copying, pasting, and printing exam questions for later use or sharing them with friends. Students are unable to open any browser other than the LockDown browser on the device they are using. This disallows them from searching for answers online while taking the exam. Also, students are not allowed to open other applications unless the professor specifically and selectable permits them to. This tool is not intrusive since it does not require students to use a webcam to inspect their surroundings. It minimizes the privacy issues associated with these types of tools.

On the other hand, there is not a single perfect system to enforce academic integrity in higher education. Having this in mind, the Respondus LockDown Browser also has its own disadvantages. This tool was designed to block students from opening unauthorized applications (MS Word, Excel, Calculator, Internet Browsers, etc.) on the device being used to take the exam (Desktop, Laptop, iPads, Chrome computes). However, students who have access to more than one device can circumvent the system by using one to take the test and another to search for answers on the internet and/or to take pictures of exam questions to study later or share them with friends. Another disadvantage is that this tool does not require or use the students’ device’s camera to be on. Consequently, students can use books, class notes or have someone else help them take the exams since faculties are not observing them.

Another disadvantage is that at CUNY, students can opt-out of using this tool with or without a valid reason at any time. In simple terms, Respondus cannot be enforced by faculty in any course. If this is the case, professors must provide those students with an exam that does not use the tool. The test can be the same or a completely different one. This fact makes using the tool more complicated than it needs to be because instructors would need to create groups to manage the assessments for the class based on who uses the tool and who does not.

In short, the Respondus LockDown Browser tool was acquired by CUNY in March 2020 with the purpose of improving academic integrity throughout the university while dealing with all classes being taught online due to the pandemic.

Citations:

Lockdown browser. Respondus. (2021, February 22). https://web.respondus.com/he/lockdownbrowser/.

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