Posts tagged ‘Rutgers University’

February 24, 2015

Students resist attempts to prevent cheating during online tests

by Grace

Students object to software designed to prevent cheating during online exams.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Students at Rutgers University are balking at a new biometric software used in online classes that requires them to record their facial features, knuckles and photo ID.

ProctorTrack, implemented for online courses this year, requires students to record their face, knuckle and personal identification details to verify their identity. The software then tracks students’ monitor, browser, webcam and microphone activity during the session to prevent cheating on exams, according to The Daily Targum – Rutgers’ student newspaper.

Students are mainly concerned about privacy issues, although the unexpected activation fee is also considered a problem.

The software and its implementation – which went largely unnoticed because the university did not notify students of the change until after the add-drop period ended – are now raising serious privacy concerns among some students. Others started a petition to stop the use of ProctorTrack over a $32 activation fee imposed on unwitting students taking classes online.

“Emails about mandating the use of ProctorTrack were sent out during the THIRD WEEK of classes,” School of Arts and Sciences senior Betsy Chao wrote on the petition. “It was already too late to drop classes and so, students essentially have NO choice but to pay the fee.”

That failure to notify student could be a violation of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, according to media reports.

The biggest concerns, however, seem to center on apparent privacy and security risks.

According to The Daily Targum, “many students are unsure if the ProctorTrack system efficiently secures recorded student data.

“The system’s security measures are not particularly clear. Combined with ProctorTrack’s young age — the system was literally patented several weeks ago — potential security vulnerabilities within the ProctorTrack system remain an open question.

Other proctoring software such as Examity and ExamGuard monitor test-takers by video taping and/or locking parts of their browser functions.

As expected, ways to evade this monitoring software have been posted online.


Victor Skinner, “Students object to online courses recording facial features, knuckles, voice”,, February 20, 2015.

November 29, 2012

‘Sending the wrong students to college’

by Grace

In lamenting the poor writing skills of his students, Rutgers University Professor Jackson Toby declares that remediation in college is usually too late to help poorly prepared students succeed.  He argues that we are “sending the wrong students to college” and that literacy problems should have been addressed starting back in elementary school.

What college professors have to deal with

… Perhaps a third of the students averaged five to ten errors per page. They had computers equipped with spell-check, but that function couldn’t prevent wrong word usage. Many couldn’t keep straight when to use “there,” rather than “their” or “they’re,” “threw” instead of “through,” “sight” instead of “site,” “aloud” instead of “allowed,” “Ivy” instead of IV (intravenous), and “stranglers” instead of “stragglers.”

Parents have to instill the importance of education from an early age.

Contrary to the mantra that everyone should go to college and that the main obstacle is inadequate financial support from governments, students have to be fairly well prepared for higher education by the time they arrive on the college campus.  Such preparation must begin much earlier in students’ lives, including convincing them that education has to be taken seriously if they aspire to interesting, well-paid jobs.  Parents are more effective than teachers at instilling this message.  Unfortunately, not all parents have their children’s education at the top of their agendas, especially parents with meager educations or serious personal problems.  Poverty alone does not prevent parents from promoting high educational aspirations in their children.

Toby goes on to say that “even parents deeply concerned about their children’s education must find programs in which their children can learn the skills they will need”.  With this I profoundly agree, having seen problems with ineffective curricula and teaching even in affluent suburban public schools.  In the case of parents who can afford it, private tutoring may be the only way their children can learn the right skills.

A pragmatic approach

… Whatever the reasons for inadequate preparation, it is usually too late for remediation in college.  Late-bloomers are mostly a myth.  That being so, it is cruel to tempt all high school graduates to take out large loans to pay for college educations; for underprepared students, loans can be traps.  For underprepared students compelled to default on loans they cannot repay, such loans in the one-trillion dollar portfolio of student loans are a disaster.  The loans are an obstacle to becoming adults, to marrying, buying a home, and raising a family.

It’s better to emphasize vocational training and job preparation at community colleges rather than Pell grants and low-cost student loans.  It isn’t a quick fix, but it’s more realistic.

Of course, Pell grants and subsidized loans are also available for vocational training.  With limited exceptions, government financial aid should be limited to students who are adequately prepared to be successful in college.  If that were the case, there would be different standards for vocational training and for four-year colleges.

Related:  We spend $40 billion yearly on Pell Grants, but we have no idea about results (Cost of College)

October 3, 2011

The big news is that Seton Hall’s new tuition discounts offer ‘clarity and certainty up front’

by Grace

Seton Hall University announced it will begin offering a $21,000 “blanket discount for top-flight students”.

To qualify for the discount, which would equal about two-thirds of this year’s $31,440 tuition (room, board and other fees add about $13,000 to the total annual bill), students must graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes and have a combined score of at least 1,200 on their math and reading SATs — but no less than 550 on either — or an ACT score of 27 or above.

The real news for me is that this new policy offers ‘clarity and certainty up front’

Even before this announcement, Seton Hall had offered and will presumably continue to offer merit scholarships, some more generous than $21,000.  However, the criteria for most of these are not so straightforward, effectively preventing an applicant from knowing up front if he will receive an a award.  This new policy should be applauded for its transparency.

To be clear, the university may have introduced this new transparency with an expectation of receiving a boost in the college ranking system.  More applicants with higher academic profiles would improve the selectivity portion of Seton Hall’s US News ranking grade, making this a win-win deal.

It appears that “stacking” is not allowed

Eighty-five percent of Seton Hall undergraduates received some financial aid this year, at a cost to the university of about $60 million. For those who would have received aid under the existing system, the savings from the discounted tuition would be less than the full $21,000.

As is typical, the university does not allow a student to “stack” merit money on top of need-based money.  This new tuition discount would simply reduce some or all need-based aid, lessening the beneficial impact for some low-income students.

For comparison purposes, here are the US News rankings.

  • Seton Hall is #132 among National Universities
  • Rutgers is #68 among National Universities

This story serves to highlight the sad fact that the approximate annual cost of attending a university ranked #132 is $50,000.  By comparison, the cost at Rutgers is about $25,000.  I know college rankings are imperfect, but still . . .

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