Increase in Online Test Results in Browser Lockdowns

With the move to remote classes, Tech students have had an increase in online testing. The choice has led to an increase in the use of Respondus Lockdown.

“I have to use a lockdown browser with a camera every single time I take any assessment for any class. I never feel comfortable with a camera watching my every move,” Grace Hajdik, senior accounting major, said.

LockDown browser comes in two versions. The first version closes all tabs on your computer and locks your computer out of everything other than the quiz or test. The second version, Respondus LockDown, uses the student’s microphone and turns on the camera. The version using a camera has created a concern for many students.

Regarding how it operates, the software can use facial recognition and even monitor students’ eye movements. The primary complaint students have expressed is a feeling of an  invasion of privacy. One student expressed the heightened level of test anxiety, due to Respondus causing additional distractions and making it more difficult to focus on the actual assessment.. 

“Someone is watching my every move, even if it’s not live; then, they watch it later. It freaks me out every time, and I tend to do worse on those exams,” Hajdik said. 

Spencer Chandler checks a lockdown browser website on April
8, 2021. With an increase of online classes anad tests, there
has also been an increased need for Respondus Lockdown.
Photo by Laura Navarro.

The software is new to professors at Tech, but is becoming more common after the shift to remote, off-campus classes. The use of the software is the choice of professors and is not required. While students understand that there is a need to validate testing, other alternative methods could be a possibility. 

“I believe a better way to do exams would be to either screen share or screen record while you take the exam or even take the exam over zoom that way nothing is recorded to be looked at later,” Caylee Tollison, senior marketing major, said.

Furthermore, some students have suggested professors make their classes more hands-on instead of making tests easy to cheat on. This would allow a compromise on both parts while preserving the privacy of students.

Welcoming the classroom into a home can already be seen as difficult to students. Not everyone can calmly sit in front of a camera and conduct themselves in a normal everyday manner that they could in a normal classroom environment. Testing experiences are not equal and surveillance inside homes may create unnecessary anxiety. 

Pursuing a degree to better oneself and to prepare for a future career is something that many students take seriously. Their primary goal is to excel in their area with the hopes of taking that knowledge with them after graduation. Exploring other methods of assessment could allow students to continue their education while also feeling as though their privacy is important and respected by decision makers.

For any student dealing with similar anxiety regarding lockdown browser when completing assessments, or test anxiety in general, there are resources available on campus. You may contact the Student Success Center. Students may also contact the Tennessee Tech Counseling Center for an appointment by calling 931-372-3331 or scheduling on the Eagle Wellness Portal to meet virtually with a counselor if test anxiety is overwhelming. 

Finally, there are also tutors on campus who are available to assist with study habits.  The main goal is to be able to adapt to situations around us and to be successful, so it is important to reach out if you find yourself struggling. 

As far as advice to deal with test anxiety, Teresa Benson from the Tech Counseling Center gave the following suggestions of best practices: be well prepared, study over days or weeks not “all-nighters,” time management, a positive attitude, read the directions, skim the test to know how to pace yourself, write formulas or key term in the margin to recall them, restful sleep the night before, show up early, deep breathing, do some “simple” ones first to build confidence, and focus on the question at hand. 

While there are areas that could be improved to reduce the additional stress involved when using a lockdown browser, it is necessary to develop skills that allow students to become more confident and comfortable when taking assessments. Reaching out to those who can help develop those skills and strategies is a step in the right direction to gaining techniques and routines that will also be useful after college graduation.