LMS Governance Committee Recommends Avoiding Online Proctoring Solutions

The LMS Team have had several requests to launch online proctoring tools.  We researched the issue and presented the options to the LMS Governance Committee.  The committee, after consideration of the market leader, Respondus, put forward the following recommendations related to proctoring tools.

 After discussing the advantages and disadvantages of these products and remote proctoring at large, the LMS Governance Committee voted unanimously to not adopt the Respondus Lock-down Browser and Respondus Monitor with the following justification: 

Respondus Lock-Down Browser is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within a learning management system.  It is used for securing online exams in classrooms and proctored environments.  

Analysis and Conclusions

  • Not an appropriate solution for online exams given at a distance as it only locks down the browser on one device. 
  • Does not prevent using multiple devices to look up information and collaborate with others using another device. 
  • Does not encourage authentic assessment. 

Respondus Monitor uses a student’s webcam to video them taking the exam.  

Analysis and Conclusions

  • More resource-intensive to implement – The LMS team will not be able to have this in place immediately. 
  • Will create duplicative work – will need to pay for the continued license and will have to go through the implementation again with the new LMS. 
  • Student privacy concerns – Students did not ask to go online or agree to video themselves. There are ethical concerns about student privacy.
  • Bandwidth resources concerns – We are already hearing of students having bandwidth issues and issues of exams being submitted as incomplete when students are using their phones to take exams in Blackboard; this will increase when they are also recording themselves. 
  • No budget to extend usageRespondus is offering their tools for free only through July of 2020. 
  • Ignores Academic Integrity Task Force recommendation. 
  • Does not encourage authentic assessment.

The LMS Governance Committee also voted unanimously on March 27, 2020 to deliver the following message concerning any type of video remote proctoring: 

 The LMS Governance Committee strongly advises all faculty to NOT require that any students record themselves taking any assessment.  This includes not using Zoom, Panopto, Youtube or Blackboard Collaborate for recording. The Coulter Faculty Commons is assembling resources on how to create alternative assessments that can be used in various disciplines. 

LMS Governance Committee 

Jonathan Wade – Senior Educational Technologist, Chair
Amy Davis – LMS Analyst
Annette Littrell – Associate Chief Information Officer / Academic Engagement & IT Governance
Eli Collins-Brown – Director, Coulter Faculty Commons
Jon Marvel – School Director EMPM/Professor
Kenneth Chapman – Tech Support Specialist
Lee Nickels – Director Assessment & Instruction Technology, CEAP
Scott Barlowe – Associate Professor
Siham Lekchiri – Assistant Professor 

Your Survey and Polling Options

Surveying Your Students:  WCU Supported Software

Option #1:  Blackboard
Don’t forget that Blackboard’s Test tool also allows for surveys that don’t add to grades and that links to those surveys can be added to announcements and emails from Blackboard.  More information on Surveys in Blackboard.  This is a best option if you are only surveying one course.

Option 1b: Blackboard Collaborate Polling

If you are running an online synchronous course in Collaborate, you can drop a live poll into your Collaborate session.  Collaborate is the Zoom-like synchronous meeting platform built into every Blackboard course.  You can find out about how to use the polling functions in Collaborate here.  Collaborate can also take attendance.

Option #2:  Microsoft Forms
For easily copied and shared polls, check out Microsoft Forms.  If you haven’t clicked the “Waffle of Power” (apps launcher) in your email portal for Office365 (email.wcu.edu), then you may not have found all of the magical wonder hidden in O365.  One of those is Microsoft Forms.  Forms is basically the Microsoft version of Google Sheets, and it is very easy to use and distribute.

Option #3: Qualtrics
All WCU employees can log into Qualtrics and create surveys.  You can get to Qualtrics by going to myWCU and clicking the SURVEYS button in the quick links, or you can type in wcu.qualtrics.com into your browser and it will take you to the log in page.  The learning curve for Qualtrics is a bit steeper than Forms.

Option #4: Poll Everywhere
PollEverywhere is already a part of many of your class experiences.  Remember that PollEverywhere is not really designed as a survey tool but rather as a live polling tool.  It will really only be useful to you in an online environment if you couple it with your synchronous virtual classroom tool (Zoom, Collaborate, or Teams) and from our point of view, it may be more difficult to be running the virtual meeting tool and Poll everywhere than to use the more limited polling tools already available in those environments.  If you have a number of existing PE polls, however, it might be a good option for you.  We are not advising PollEverywhere as a solution during the emergency online period in Spring of 2020.

For all of these, call or email ITHelp first and they should be able to get you started.

Think Twice About That Free Offer

A Case Study in Marketing: The Danger of “Free” (Especially for Public Employees)

My dear faculty friends.  Many of you are on marketing email lists of a number of educational technology companies.  They’ve given you good value for trading your email address for many different incentives at conferences or for webinars or for whitepapers.  They are now descending upon you with “free” offers that might not be as good as they seem in the first place.

Now you are getting exciting announcements that they are offering you free access to their predictive learning or course management platform or free publisher content.  Think twice.  This falls in the free like a puppy category, and it could put you in a great amount of risk.

We are making every effort to provide you with the basic tools you need to meet the needs of your students, and although these other tools may seem to be THE ANSWER TO EVERY PROBLEM IN THE UNIVERSE, they still need to go through all of the contract and data handling review that any software or service requires.

North Carolina has some particular laws with relation to the retention of student course data and any software we use is required to be properly vetted.  And even “free” click-throughs are contracts that you aren’t authorized to enter into on behalf of the university. (See the software policy).  Unfortunately for most of these free products, by the time we are able to get them through the process and have their lawyers and our lawyers align the agreements and check all of their data retention policies, we’ll probably be outside of the window of this particular set of circumstances.

If you absolutely have to move the ball forward we can start the process of getting the software reviewed, but, if I were you, I’d dig into the tools we have before I even considered putting content into a platform that at most will be “free” for 6 months and then will be asking for money.  (For example one of the huge offenders is offering a wonderful platform that when it goes to paid costs on average $10 a student a year, and we don’t have a mechanism for paying for that particular service.)

New to Online? Consider Using Text and Images

Yes, most of us like shiny, flashy, and interactive technologies.

But consider:

How many truly awful webinars have you experienced?

How many times have you had to log back on, or fight with your microphone settings?

And, indeed, we have three well-provisioned video conferencing platforms that should handle the traffic, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, and MS Teams meetings.  We also have Panopto which will allow you to record video and audio to share with your students. And video and live conferencing may be more engaging when done well, but it isn’t necessarily easier, and it is most certainly far more difficult to make compliant with accessibility laws and to get to work consistently over low-bandwidth connections.

Even if you are adept with technology, we urge you to tend toward simplicity with students who didn’t seek to be online students. They may not like to read, but text may be your and their best friend.

If you create text within Blackboard using any of the built-in functions, it is automatically usable by screen readers and available for students who need that tool. Discussion boards may be clunky, but once you’ve mastered the flow, they work, and at low bandwidth.

If you choose to do live classes or to record videos, you may want to consider pre-scripting them so that you can easily send a copy of the transcript to any student who requests the transcript.

So consider whether your high-stakes information and content might better be delivered as text, as text and photos, or as a recorded video that has an identical transcript.

Remember that you can insert images and links to YouTube videos easily within Blackboard from the editor and that links to external sites work as well. You can even create a reflection assignment or discussion board afterwards.

For images, remember copyright issues (a great guide from our library is available here) and remember that there are several cultural heritage institutions that provide their images free for educational use (like the Smithsonian).

And, if you’ve been forced to move online because of outside factors, be kind to yourself. Stick with simplicity or use simplicity as a fallback when complexity causes confusion.

Remember that the best practices of online course-creation call for a 1-2 year preparation for a well-designed online course and that many outside companies suggest a budget in the tens of thousands for well designed video and interactive content. You don’t have the time for that. You have the core of content and can use tools like Zoom or Collaborate as extensions of the relationships that will get us all through this time of change together.

Focus on getting a working wall of sandbags built to channel the water for a short period of time. This isn’t time to try to build one of the wonders of the world.

We’re here to help you with your technology, but don’t forget that words and reading are still one of the most powerful technologies, and that they still have their place in the world of online teaching and learning.

Open Classroom Forum in the New Reid “Bowling” Rooms

Help Us Decide the Next Directions for
Instructional Spaces at WCU

What might next steps look like…?  Drop in for any amount of time to help WCU decide

Classroom Layout

The Layout of Our New Rooms

Open Forum on Instructional Spaces and Technologies

Date: Thursday March 19, 2020

Time: 11:00 to 2:00 (Peruse & Comment)

Location: REID 113A and 113B (NEW GENERAL POOL CLASSROOMS)

Come See Come Comment: On these rooms, on future renovations, on what needs to in the classrooms where you teach.

The Academic Space Advisory Board, Coulter Faculty Center, and Instructional Technology want to hear from you as we think about what we’re doing in our classrooms and laboratories over the next five or ten years.

How are our classrooms serving you? How can they evolve to serve you better?

Come See Come Comment

Active Learning Strategies for High Flex Rooms

Help solve WCU’s Blue-desk conundrum
(new furniture options to consider)

Rooms with all-eyes-forward or tables for groups of six or eight.

Whiteboards for Workgroups

Mobile Podium Options

Where is the line between classroom design verses classroom management?

Laptop-Friendly alternates to Electronic Classrooms

 

  Is now the time….

To phase out Electronic Classrooms for High-Flex Rooms?

For BOTH students and instructors to bring their laptops to class?  What’s the future of the instructor’s station?

Talk about room-linking technologies so one instructor can teach concurrently in two or more locations