Is Lockdown Browser worth it? Students and faculty divided

LockDown Browser prohibits the use of other applications while students are taking exams, in order to prevent cheating during online schooling. Photo illustration by Christina Cannady | Photographer

By Erianne Lewis | Staff Writer

Students from around the country have shared horror stories online from using “anti-cheating” software called Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor. There seems to be a consensus among Baylor students that they do not enjoy using this software.

As the pandemic has led to many classes being moved to online and hybrid formats, professors have been driven to these proctoring softwares.

Lockdown Browser is a testing system that closes any additional programs that a computer may be using in the background and completely locks down a device to ensure secure online exams. Respondus Monitor is a webcam feature that students use to record themselves during an exam, so professors can make sure they are not using additional devices to find answers online. Most times, Respondus Monitor is used alongside Lockdown Browser to ensure maximum cheating prevention.

Dr. Hugh Riley, a senior lecturer and undergraduate program director in the psychology and neuroscience department, said he, along with other professors in his department, use Lockdown Browser with Respondus Monitor uniformly because they found it is the best way to level the playing field between students.

“I think it’s important to eliminate temptation in order not to entrap students into a behavior that they wouldn’t normally otherwise do,” Riley said. “If we didn’t use Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor it would allow the students to cheat and give them an unfair advantage over their classmates, and they might be tempted to do so without those tools available.”

Houston freshman Brianna Robles said the softwares cause her unneeded anxiety.

“I feel it’s pointless when we have to use Lockdown without webcam, and I get anxious if I have to use it [with webcam] because I’m worried any little thing I do is going to be considered cheating,” Robles said.

Similarly to Robles, Plano freshman Emily Kolb said she is constantly worried her gazing around the room during an exam will be perceived as cheating.

“I look around a lot during tests so my brain can think, and I am so afraid that my professors will think that I’m cheating when I am simply trying to focus,” Kolb said.

Although the use of Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor has recently become the norm, there are still professors that do not intend to use it. Randy Hall, lecturer in the department of physics and the department of mathematics, said he doesn’t use Lockdown Browser because he doesn’t want to add additional stress onto his students, among other reasons.

“I teach physics, and physics is hard enough as it is, and I don’t want my students to have to deal with fighting technology while they are taking an exam,” Hall said. “We live in an age where most software doesn’t work as well as we’d like it to and I just don’t want to add something else, to something that is already difficult.”

Hall said he sets expectations for his students, and he expects them to follow them.

“I understand that may be naïve and I might get taken advantage of now and again, but I’d rather have that happen then for my students to be treated like I don’t trust them,” Hall said. “I do get some positive response from the students when they realize that I’m much more interested in them showing me what they can do than I am standing over them with a hammer of some kind. I am most concerned during this whole pandemic thing that we make sure that we do the best that we can so the students can learn their material.”

Riley said currently there are no resources in place in his department for students to report negative experiences they may have with the Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor software, but it may be time to change that.

“We should perhaps start capturing that data by asking them at the end of the exam what they thought about the way the exam was administrated or the strategies that were put in place to prevent cheating,” Riley said. “Even if they don’t like it, it’s actually for their own benefit that these resources are used to minimize the amount of student cheating that might otherwise occur.”