U of M pilots Respondus anti-cheating software

Software accesses webcams, uses artificial intelligence to curb cheating

The U of M piloted a program over the summer term to remotely monitor students writing exams online. 

Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most classes have been shifted online since the latter portion of the winter term and most examinations have taken place remotely since then. 

The U of M is allowing instructors to choose whether they want to use the monitoring software in their courses for the fall 2020 term.   

Respondus, which describes itself on its website as a “pioneer of online testing applications,” is the software the U of M piloted in order to monitor students taking exams.  

The company’s software watches students’ webcams as they write exams and locks students’ browsers so they cannot leave the exam until it is finished. 

According to the Respondus website, “powerful analytics are used to detect suspicious behaviours during an exam session.  

Video segments with potential exam violations are flagged for the instructor.” 

Respondus also uses artificial intelligence to monitor students’ physical movements as well as keyboard and mouse use to detect cheating.  

The U of M issues penalties for academic dishonesty — including cheating on assessments — ranging from failure of the course to expulsion. 

In an effort to mitigate academic dishonesty in the faculty of science, dean Stefi Baum said many classes will see “lower-stakes assessments, rather than putting everything into a final or huge midterm.” 

She said her goal is to “change the cost-benefit analysis” to ensure students have less incentive to cheat on their exams and assignments. 

Dean of agricultural and food sciences Martin Scanlon said limiting high-stress situations is a priority of his faculty as well. The fall semester will see grading based on smaller assignments spread across the term instead of having one exam making up a larger percentage of their final grade. 

Records of academic dishonesty are kept by the university, and a notation noting any transgressions appear on records and on official university transcripts if a student is expelled or suspended from the university due to academic dishonesty.