There are few sentences in the Baylor lexicon that are more terrifying than “We’ll be using lockdown browser for this test.” Students know this intimately well as the cheating-focused program has become a mainstay in American schools. Many of Baylor’s students use lockdown browser every week for tests and quizzes.
Is this really accomplishing what we as a university want to get out of the testing experience? Is this the kind of anti-cheating program that will, in the end, benefit students’ learning? While useful for maintaining an academic environment in many classes where tests cannot be open note, it can also squash testing of creative thinking, distracting students from their academics and forcing them to be aware that they are being electronically monitored at all times during the test — a digital panopticon of control.
It does bear an eerie resemblance to the panopticon — a type of prison that operates with all prisoners under watch of a central main tower. They don’t know when they specifically are being observed and so must act like they are always being observed to prevent any notice of their wrongdoing. It has been described as a system of control.
This horrific, soulless prison concept has much the same effect on students using lockdown browser. It raises the anxiety levels and fear of disobedience in students, as they are never sure how closely they are being observed or what infractions may be seen as cheating, even if cheating was not intended.
The Lariat reached out for student comment on the program and received some answers from students that painted a picture of a worried testing environment. Far from the confidence one would want while completing an important academic challenge, some students who had problems with the program, including difficulty with microphone and video setup, felt increases in anxiety and worry during the examination period and more.
“I do not like lockdown browser. It makes me feel even more anxious and nervous when taking an exam than in a typical in-person setting, Pasadena freshman Samantha Rodriguez said. “I also don’t like the possibility of encountering issues during my exam.”
Carrollton freshman Krishna Nair had similar feelings of anxiety about Lockdown Browser, but said that he didn’t mind it.
“I don’t mind it but it’s just weird and makes me nervous … I’m basically being recorded. I don’t know if the professor looks at the video for the whole time after,” Nair said. “But it’s just like being watched 24/7 and yeah, makes me uneasy.”
Some classes need Lockdown Browser in order to uphold academic standards. That’s fine. But for many classes, it would make students much more relaxed during the testing process if questions were worded in such a way as to make cheating impossible, by testing critical thinking and knowledge of the texts and information learned in class. Please, let’s try to use this tool sparingly, as it offers a very invasive view into students’ lives that should not be normalized.