Editor-in-Chief Melissa Watson spoke with Dean Melinda Oberleitner, Ph.D., on April 2, 2020 and added in her commentary on the situation on April 3.
As of March 19, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette went online, and so did all of the testing.
Some students, specifically health information management majors, are being told to use ProctorU as an alternative to testing in person, as COVID-19 makes that impossible.
ProctorU promotes itself as being a safe, integrity-upholding way of online testing, as opposed to Moodle, per se, because of its recording and live webcam features.
“Our job is to deter and prevent any breach of integrity, whether it be using a proxy tester, using unpermitted resources to gain an unfair advantage during an exam, or stealing exam content. Prevention can occur before or during an exam,” the website reads.
ProctorU offers three levels of protection against cheating — record, review and live — depending on the importance of the exam in question.
However, ProctorU also charges fees that students did not anticipate to pay.
“So, with the coronavirus happening, for my major, we are expected to pay an additional $170 to take ten more exams online. Which is kind of unfair because it’s like a penalty for something that’s not our fault,” said Sarah, a health information management major who wanted her last name withheld.
The exam fees themselves range from $15-30, depending on how stringent the exam proctoring needs to be.
“Proctored exam fees vary depending on the level of authentication and proctoring options your instructor chooses. Set up time usually takes about 10 minutes and is not included in the hourly charges,” according to the UL Lafayette webpage on ProctorU.
Another student expressed concern that the fees would be more challenging due to her sudden coronavirus-related unemployment.
“(The cost) is really starting to add up,” Leigh Jolivette, a health information management major said. “A lot of us just got laid off due to the virus. I actually have to file for unemployment today. I know at least two people in my department who have actually had to apply for unemployment.”
According to Dean Melinda Oberleitner, Ph.D., who oversees the College of Nursing at UL Lafayette, the department of allied health planned to pay for the exam fees since the beginning of the transition to remote instruction.
“The department of allied health had every intention of working within their budget to be able to pay for ProctorU for students and students were told that in emails. There were two exams that were given before the contract with ProctorU could be finished. So, no student in the department of allied health had to pay more than $17 for proctoring before that contract went in place,” Oberleitner said.
Oberleitner added that allied health students were never charged or expected to pay $170 for online testing at any point. She said students who paid more than $17 before the contract were likely charged a late payment fee by ProctorU.
Because of the costs, Jolivette said some faculty took it on themselves to pay for the costs while the department looked for solutions.
“What has been said is that some of the professors are trying to get the department to pay for online exams. I know one of the professors just outright bought it for us,” Jolivette said.
Oberleitner said that this was never the case within the college.
“No faculty member paid ProctorU and I don’t even know how you would even do that,” Oberleitner said. “The costs are paid by the department of allied health.”
Other alternatives to ProctorU have been offered as well, including both Moodle and Zoom.
Moodle is free and is used by other majors, but there is a higher risk of cheating. Professors have tried to combat this by using a timer on tests and quizzes to make it harder to look at notes.
“We raised enough of a fuss that I’m pretty sure that we’re moving some of our exams to Moodle,'' Jolivette said. “In one of our classes, they’re going to Zoom us and proctor it themselves, but (our professor) isn’t savvy enough to do that, which I respect, but that doesn’t mean that I should have to pay 20 bucks to take the exam online.”
Oberleitner said the faculty within the department of allied health are well-versed in technology.
“All of the faculty in allied health are probably the most tech-savvy people on campus. That’s their discipline,” Oberleitner said.
The head of the allied health department, Anita Hazelwood, Ph.D., who oversees some of the online testing procedures, said students are the top priority.
“We are still working through the day to day and making sure our students are adjusting to this new normal. Our first priority right now is dealing with our students and faculty and making sure that classes are proceeding along and the students are receiving the needed resources to be successful,” Hazelwood wrote in an email during the transition.
Oberleitner said Hazelwood wrote this statement while she was working on getting the fees covered by the department for allied health students.
“She was very much working very, very hard to get that contract approved so that students would not have to pay out of their pockets for ProctorU and that department funds would pay for that,” Oberleitner said. “I can tell you, in my college, we’ve spent almost $100,000 from department funds on technology products so that our students would not have to pay out of their own pockets.”