PHOTO BY SARA SHEIKH / THE SPUTNIK PHOTOGRAPHY
As of Nov. 16, just over 3000 people signed a petition started by Laurier students to remove the use of webcams during online examinations at the university.
The Change.org petition titled ‘remove the need of webcams during online examinations at Laurier’ claims that “it is time for Laurier to follow other universities and remove the need of webcams.”
In it, students claim that the pressures placed on them by webcams are too strict and cause more stress than the examination itself.
It is no secret that everyone is currently dealing with stressful times, and the students who signed this petition feel that Laurier should be doing more to support students academically.
Will Sauro, a first year history student who helped create the petition, said that he has heard from many students about the lengths they have had to go to in order to prove their academic integrity, such as opening drawers during the initial environment scan, and not moving their eyes away from their computer screen.
“The webcam software used by Laurier has been in place for around a decade and is common in post-secondary institutions,” said Mary Wilson, Vice-provost of teaching and learning.
The software is in place to attempt to replicate an in-person experience, even while learning remotely.
“We want [students] to feel confident when they are sitting down, that there’s no one taking unfair advantage,” said Wilson.
Seeing as academic integrity is important for both students and faculty, ensuring that this is maintained during the current circumstances is a priority for the university.
In regards to the strictness of protocols, Wilson said that “they were intended well.”
Instructions such as no stretching, reading questions out loud, or looking away from the computer screen were intended, “to proactively identify for students the sorts of… behaviour that would generate the kinds of records that could be reviewed for possible academic misconduct,” said Wilson.
However, as seen by the petition, these rules are too strict for students. Many feel that although there was a need for academic integrity, their privacy had been taken away.
According to Sauro and the other creators of the petition, Laurier should be doing more to “see eye to eye with [students].”
In an attempt to do this, on Oct. 30, the university sent out an email in response to the backlash stating “we will be working with faculties and instructors to collaborate in developing solutions to concerns about test/exam requirements.”
Sauro feels this is a good start, but that it “has to be more than just an email.”
The petition mentions possible alternate assessment options, but Wilson said that although many faculty have changed their course assessments to reduce the need for exams, some forms of learning are best suited to some forms of assessments.
Laurier is currently looking at ways in which they can better accommodate students academically right now. They hope to continue talks with both students and faculty to improve upon online learning as everyone continues to adapt to it.