Luis Hammer was in the middle of an exam for one of his online classes when his computer screen froze.
“Take off your Apple Watch,” read a pop-up from one of the remote proctors monitoring his test.
Hammer scrambled to remove the watch. Then he showed his bare wrist to the screen, and his exam resumed.
He was using Honorlock, a remote proctoring program that uses a combination of artificial intelligence monitoring and live proctors to ensure the integrity of remote exams. Honorlock is a Google Chrome extension that enables students to take proctored exams through Canvas without going through a separate app.
“I was really surprised because I didn't know that there were people actually watching me and proctoring me while I was taking the test,” said Hammer, a sophomore studying business data analytics. “I assumed it was a computer that was doing so.”
ASU added Honorlock in May 2021 as one of three options for remote exam proctoring, a statement provided by a University spokesperson said. ASU also uses Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor for in-person classes, according to a University document.
Respondus LockDown Browser prevents students from opening other browsers, printing, copying and pasting, and searching on the internet. Respondus Monitor builds upon the browser by having students record themselves using a webcam. The recordings are flagged for suspicious events, and professors can view the recordings after the exam, according to a Respondus webpage.
Honorlock monitors tests live using AI to alert human proctors, who pop into students’ exams via live chat to see if they are violating academic integrity policies.
Honorlock offers multiple features to prevent cheating, primarily its patented “multi-device detection” to catch students accessing exam-related content on separate devices. It also offers a feature it calls "Search and Destroy," which removes leaked questions from the web, and voice detection to ensure students aren’t collaborating with others during a test.
Students have voiced concerns about Honorlock — particularly the pop-ins and the multi-device detection feature — online since the University announced its adoption in Summer 2021, including on numerous Reddit threads.
On Google reviews, Honorlock's Google Chrome extension has a one-star rating averaged across 2,000 reviews. Complaints include fears over data, privacy and overall functionality.
In an email to faculty in May, the University announced Honorlock would be used for iCourses, ASU online classes and “high stakes exams" and replace RPNow, a proctoring service ASU previously used.
RPNow had students take a proctored exam. A proctor would review the recordings and would deliver a report to ASU, according to a page on the RPNow website dedicated to ASU.
“Each (proctoring solution) was selected in a rigorous process involving a committee of university faculty and staff and an extensive review of product functionality, user support, and security,” said the University spokesperson.
According to ASU’s contract with Honorlock, the University paid a total of $85,000 to soft launch the program over this past summer. ASU will pay $880,000 every year for three years with an option to continue through a fourth and fifth year for the same price. The total cost for five years of use is just under $4.5 million.