Lockdown Browser

As students continue through another semester of online classes, new adjustments made to the online test taking system Respondus LockDown Browser cause increased stress.

Respondus LockDown Browser [RLDB] is a locked browser universities use for taking tests, like WVU does with eCampus (Blackboard). It prevents test takers from printing, copying, going to another URL or accessing other applications during a test, according to WVU Information Technology Services.

Students can be recorded while taking an exam through the browser’s monitoring system. The Respondus Monitor is a part of the RLDB that enables web cam functionality during exams. Instructors may enable the Respondus Monitor for exams that are taken using the browser.

As with any other system intended to promote academic integrity, Respondus LockDown Browser is an effective tool that both directly prevents specific types of misconduct and allows instructors to detect concerning or suspicious behavior, according to Tracey Beckley, assistant dean for Teaching and Learning. 

“When Respondus Monitor is used and an individual student’s video is flagged, the video must be reviewed by the instructor, who may decide that no further review or response is needed, or who may decide to file a report with the Office of Academic Integrity,” Beckley said.

Freshman chemical engineering student Peyton Lacy has noticed the new changes in LockDown Browser when it comes to the environment checks.

“They seem more thorough when it comes to showing your surroundings and even using a mirror to show your laptop,” Lacy said.

Before taking an exam, depending on the method used by the professor, students are required to use the camera and scan their entire room and under their desk, clear their desk completely and they can have no one in the room at the same time, which can be difficult for students living in dorms with roommates.

According to Beckley, students have been reported for misconduct that was detected via Respondus Monitor, and while some are ultimately held responsible, others were cleared after further review. 

“However, we have no way of knowing how many such incidents are screened out by instructors and consequently never reported,” Beckley said.

Freshman engineering student Owen Chouinard feels additional stress while using LockDown Browser to take his exams.

“I would rather take my exams in person because I feel like I can focus more,” Chouinard said. “It [LockDown Browser] makes me feel like I can’t do normal things I usually do during a test without the monitor flagging me for cheating. It can be difficult sometimes because it flags you even when you’re just talking to yourself to workout a problem, which has happened to me before.”

Although no adjustments have been made to the browser, students still voice their distaste for the system. 

“I think to some people it’s a big invasion of privacy. I’m currently learning from home, and sometimes I feel uncomfortable showing my room, especially if it's a little messy,” Lacy said. “I don’t think LockDown Browser is useful to students anyway because we should be able to use more resources to get information, like we would have access to in real-life scenarios.”

WVU Information Technology Services has additional information regarding Respondus Lockdown Browser available on its website.