In the week of October 19th, technical issues arose in exams of students of the Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences and the School of Business and Economics. They are the two faculties (in addition to Science and Engineering) that work with Proctorio within UM. This is software from an American company that the university uses to supervise online exams. In a communication e-mail, UM announces that the Science and Engineering faculty is still investigating whether their students have experienced problems logging in.
The disruptions resulted in “a high stress level”, says second-year medical student Geertje Frankenmolen. During her test, which she took from home on Friday October 23, she was thrown out of Proctorio no less than three times. And that while her test had already been moved from Thursday to Friday as a precaution, she was informed on Wednesday evening at 10 p.m. This because of “problems with Proctorio”.
Yet it still went wrong. Frankenmolen: “It didn't work again. Eventually I took my phone [which of course is not allowed while taking a test, Ed.] and called the IT department. They told me to restart the computer; then indeed I got back in. But I had to show my ID card again and do another room check.”
One complaint after another trickled into the group app of her and her fellow students. A class delegation finally prepared a Google docs document with a list of about 40 complaints, she says. What becomes clear from this: especially when zooming in on images it went wrong. The systems stopped working. Frankenmolen: “I understand that it is all new, but of course you don't expect that much hassle.”
The technical problems arose at the external proctoring company, says UM in the communication email. According to spokesperson Fons Elbersen it seems like a capacity problem. In response to the problems that were identified, UM was in constant contact with this company during the first exam week and the service has improved considerably since then”, the communication email states. “No more technical issues have occurred.” The UM says it will continue to monitor the service “closely”. Elbersen doesn't want to report anything further about any legal actions.
A relatively small number of students were affected, it is said. At SBE it would concern about two hundred students. Ansgar Hedderich, master's student of Business Intelligence and Smart Services, was one of them. Strikingly, the only one in his field of study - “I heard afterwards that my fellow students apparently had no problems”. After one and a half hours of exam time (of a total of two hours) he was thrown out the system. His camera light was no longer on, "so I was sure there was no more recording." Eventually he emailed his course coordinator and called the university, but "the number I called was not available". A few minutes before the end of the exam, he could log back in anyway. But there was not enough time to finish it. ‘Silver lining’: he can take his exam again next Friday. "Better now than after Christmas."
Soon after the incident, the SBE organized two town hall meetings via Zoom in which a total of about two hundred students took part. Text and explanation were provided. It was made clear to the students that they should not be harmed. Hence a leniency arrangement.
All SBE students - “it is difficult to determine who encountered problems in what way”, says Elbersen - who took part in the chaotic exams, can take the exam again. “The resit is considered a first chance.” The same applies to FHML students. There it was decided that there will be an extra opportunity, and the best grade will apply. If you fail, you can still retake it. It is not yet known when these exams will take place.
Hayden Bunn, law student and chair of the Maastricht Student Union, has started a petition with his fellow board members on change.org (today, Friday 6 November, 27 students signed). The problems that arose during the exam period gave them the extra push. He wants to get rid of proctoring and hopes that UM will look even better at alternative exams.
Whether the problem in Maastricht is related to the major login failure at the University of Amsterdam on Tuesday 20 and Thursday 22 October is unclear. Exams were canceled there; students couldn't even log in to Testvision, Zoom or Canvas. Subsequently, there were login and operational problems at Proctorio. The exam period at the University of Groningen did not go as planned either. There, the online exam system Nestor crashed due to overload.
Wendy Degens, Yuri Meesen