Outraged at Respondus LockDown Browser

27 03 2009

Welcome to another post of me being outraged at something college related. This time, it is about the RespondusLockDown Browser and it’s usage at ASU. What this software essentially does is cripple your operating system while you are taking an online test or quiz with BlackBoard. You can’t copy, paste, print, access the taskbar, switch applications, close the application, or run anything on a list of about 250 programs that have been deemed bad (including paint) while taking your test.

According to the article, ASU payed $2,372 to use this software for the fiscal year. At a time where there are constant threats of tution increases and program closures, this is something ASU is spending money on?

First off, the software is useless if anyone using it has half a brain (and we’re college students, meaning supposedly we have that). Listing the first 3 things that come to mind, starting with the skill level of hacker guru and going to the skill level of someone who’s 10 years old,

Sniff packets and fool whatever page your accessing that you’re really using the browser when you aren’t.

Run it under VMware and take screenshots, surf the web, etc, all you want while taking your test.

Just use two computers, Google with one, take test with the other.

So essentially, anyone who wants to get around it, easily could. That said, the entire thing is just going to burden and annoy large amounts of honest students. What happens if your Wifi cuts out when taking the test? You can’t access the taskbar, can’t close the application, can’t get to your wireless or network settings, and are essentially screwed while the clock ticks down to 0 on the test you can’t finish. In that case, I could go complain to the teacher and get them to let me retake the test, unless of course he’s the paranoid type who thinks everyone is cheating and wants to run software on their computers to prevent accessing things like their printer during an exam. Oh shit…

If you want students to not have access to the Internet while taking a test or quiz, do not administer it on the Internet! It’s as simple as that. Using BlackBoard for tests and quizzes is essentially open book and open notes anyway, so even if you make it harder to access the Internet, it’s just as easy to “cheat”. The level of stupidity of whoever thought it was a good idea, or for that matter, would actually do anything useful, boggles my mind.

Purposely installing a piece of software that not only has the ability to, but has the purpose of crippling my operating system, is just utterly ridiculous. Why would I ever install something that does this,

  • Assessments are displayed full-screen and cannot be minimized
  • Assessments cannot be exited until submitted by users for grading
  • Task switching or access to other applications is prevented
  • Printing functions are disabled
  • Print Screen and capturing functions are disabled
  • Copying and pasting anything to and from an assessment is prohibited
  • Right-click menu options are disabled
  • Browser menu and toolbar options are disabled, except for Back, Forward, Refresh and Stop
  • Function keys are disabled
  • Source code for the HTML page cannot be viewed
  • Over 250 screen capture, messaging, screen-sharing and network monitoring applications are blocked from running
  • The browser automatically starts at the login page for the institution’s course management system
  • URLs cannot be typed by the user
  • External links don’t compromise the “locked” testing environment
  • Pages from the assessment aren’t cached or stored in Internet Explorer’s history listing
  • Assessments that are set up for use with Respondus LockDown Browser cannot be accessed with other browsers.

It sounds like a virus, not a piece of software for educational institutions.