Burlap Sack: Smart Exam Monitor (SEM)

This SEM-ester is becoming superfluously stressful

“Penguins live in Antarctica.”

That might have triggered haunting flashbacks in some of us, since it is the microphone test phrase for the nefarious Smart Exam Monitor (SEM). At first, SEM seemed like the answer to all of our worries regarding academic integrity. However, after a semester of using it, the software has been the biggest let down since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

While using SEM to proctor my exams, I feel like a donkey being forced across a rickety bridge by a green ogre. I know it is necessary to have some sort of academic integrity, but there has to be a better way. Every step feels like the bridge will collapse and I am going to be sent home (well, I guess I’m already there) with an F8 on my transcript. 

This semester has already been stressful enough for us. Some of us are having to coordinate different time zones and learn new ways to study. Others are trying to make ends meet with child care and work. Still others are having to tolerate repeated distractions from young siblings also doing online school. Having to adapt to SEM makes our task even more taxing. 

Exam season is always a time where mental help can be left on the back burner. SEM proctoring is not helping. The worry that we will be flagged for something out of our control is omnipresent. Everytime a dog barks or little kids are being exceptionally loud outside, we can just see SEM giving us a wicked smirk. We are even afraid to move too much incase that is seen as cheating.

But wait, there’s more … 

Not only is the actual exam taking more demanding, but the set up involved with SEM is also undesirable. It seems that we need to set up an entire studio to take our ID and face pictures and, when SEM doesn’t recognize them, our heart skips a beat. Because of their coding, proctoring software also tend to make the experience much harder for students of colour, seeming to favour white, cisgender men.

Fortunately, our professors are understanding and reassure us that we can proceed with the exam even if there are problems with the scan. While we appreciate the kind gesture, the devil on our shoulder is always casting doubt and worry upon our already caffeine saturated minds.

COVID-19 has brought with it many issues, more than just people dying from this illness. Mental health is already a rising problem during this time. Let’s not use a proctoring program that adds fuel to the fire.

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