The Risks of Using Locked Down Browsers

Every educator pours their time, effort, and love into helping students learn. However, for all the effort put into helping students succeed, there is equal disappointment felt when academic dishonesty occurs on assessments or assignments. As the use of computer-based testing software increases in education, methods by which students cheat are more complicated and creative. When faculty hear of technology like locked down browsers, it seems like a solution to a frustrating problem that has nagged at them for years. Take advantage of the convenience of computer-based testing while employing a technology that promises secure exams. It’s exactly what you needed! Right?

While the idea may seem perfect, the execution often isn’t. Locked down browsers introduce many new problems for students. Worse, on top of all those new problems, it doesn’t fix the original problem you want to solve.

Problems Associated with Locked Down Browsers

 

Invasiveness of Locked Down Browsers

The supposedly secure exam software used by locked down browsers can cause computers to crash, prevent applications from working after the testing is complete, or introduce new viruses onto the students’ computers. Short of teaching one-on-one computer safety best practices, you can recommend students backup their computers before each test to be safe or to install anti-virus software before downloading the locked down browser software. However, these aren’t completely reasonable solutions to the problems you shouldn’t have to deal with in the first place.

Bandwidth Requirements

Institutions have limited infrastructure to work with, and it’s already being bogged down by the BYOD culture that brings thousands of devices to campuses each day, most of which connect to their network. Requiring a number of students to all use locked down browsers simultaneously exacerbates the problem.

This now means that if the locked down browser testing overtaxes the system and students lose internet access, they lose access to the test and their completed work. Having to restart an exam a student nearly finishes because of a network problem causes major problems for both the students and your program or institution. Computer-based testing doesn’t have to come with these issues. Secure, application-based exams cut out the need for internet and circumvent the problem altogether.

Security Issues

Locked down browsers are easy to hack. Do a quick Google search and you’ll see lots of methods students have found to get around them—and students know it. If the whole point of locked down browsers is to have more secure exams, you’re probably not getting what you paid for.

Testing software shouldn’t get in the way of a student’s grade—and it certainly shouldn’t cause problems with their personally owned computers. Technology can improve education and it can solve problems teachers have been dealing with for years, but it has to be the right tech used correctly. Exam security is a worthwhile goal to reach for, but do the research to find a tool for secure computer-based exams that works for your program.