The Risks of Using Locked Down Browsers

Problems with Locked Down Browsers

Educators dedicate their time and effort to help students learn. For all the validation that comes from helping students succeed, it can be disappointing when students don’t maintain academic integrity on assessments or assignments.

As more educators adopt computer-based testing software, students continue to find new methods to pass tests without mastering the content. Testing tools like locked down browsers ostensibly protect exam integrity, and implementing a computer-based testing platform that employs this technology may seem like the right solution to prevent academic dishonesty.

The idea behind locked down browsers may seem foolproof, but these tools can introduce many new problems for students, instructors, and institutions. And beyond creating issues during testing, these tools aren’t completely effective in preventing academic dishonesty.

Common Problems Associated with Locked Down Browsers

Here are a few key problems with locked down browser technology which can impede a smooth and secure exam session.

1. Invasiveness of Locked Down Browsers

Exam solutions that use locked down browsers can cause computers to crash, prevent applications from working even after the test is complete, or put student devices at risk for viruses. Short of teaching computer safety best practices, instructors can recommend students backup their computers before each test to be safe or install anti-virus software before downloading locked down browser software. However, these aren’t always realistic or even complete solutions to these problems.

2. Bandwidth Requirements

Institutions don’t always have the infrastructure necessary to support a bring-your-own-device model, which can equate to thousands of devices simultaneously connected to campus networks each day. Requiring students to all use locked down browsers during an exam session can exacerbate this problem.

Testing with a locked down browser can easily overwhelm systems with limited bandwidth, causing students to lose internet access as well as access to the test and their completed work. However, not all solutions for computer-based testing are affected by connectivity issues. Secure, application-based exams circumvent these problems altogether by eliminating the need for internet access while exams are in session.

3. Security Issues

Locked down browsers have proven easy to hack. A quick Google search reveals a number of methods students have found to evade these kinds of exam security tools. If the point of adopting a locked down browser is to deliver a more secure exam, these tools don’t always deliver on their promise.

Testing software shouldn’t get in the way of a student’s exam performance, and it certainly shouldn’t cause problems with their devices. The right assessment technology can enhance student learning and provide a secure exam environment that educators can trust. Exam security is possible with a digital assessment platform that works without the need for a consistent internet connection.

Published: December 14, 2018

Updated: February 7, 2022

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