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(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When U.S. law student Areeb Khan tried to sign into the online portal to take his practice bar exam, he was met with a strange message: “Due to poor lighting we are unable to identify your face.”
Additional lighting did not solve the issue. The 27-year-old even tried to sign in from the brightest room in his New York apartment – the bathroom.
Khan began to suspect that it was his dark skin tone that rattled Examplify, a test proctoring platform adopted by New York state’s law exams board during the COVID-19 pandemic. It took days of back and forth with customer service before he could sign in.
“There are so many systematic barriers preventing people like me from obtaining these degrees – and this is just another example of that,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
As COVID-19 restrictions force students to take remote exams,
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Last month, as students at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Ontario, Canada, began studying for their midterm exams, many of them had to memorize not just the content on their tests, but a complex set of instructions for how to take them.
The school has a student body of nearly 18,500 undergraduates, and is one of many universities that have increasingly turned to exam proctoring software to catch supposed cheaters. It has a contract with Respondus, one of the many exam proctoring companies offering software designed to monitor students while they take tests by tracking head and eye movements, mouse clicks, and more. This type of surveillance has become the new norm for tens of thousands of students around the world, who—forced to study remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, often while paying full tuition—are subjected to programs that a growing body of critics