Internet connection brings challenges to online assignments

Madeline Scalzi

On a walk through any campus building today one will find typical learning materials such as textbooks, projectors, pencils and planners, but what they will also find more than ever before are electronics: smartphones, laptop computers, tablets and more.

According to a 2015 poll conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Pearson, nine in ten college students use a laptop or smartphone on a regular basis.

“The needs of students from a wireless perspective has certainly gone up,” said James Raber, interim executive director of Information Services. “We have definitely made a concerted effort to make sure it’s very solid.”

Some students, however, question the validity of the technological efforts by Information Services.

“Everyone on campus knows someone who has been kicked out of a test or quiz on Blackboard, or lost Wi-Fi connection,” said junior managerial marketing major Jay Kanapesky. “To say that there isn’t a problem somewhere in the system is just unreasonable.”

In February, Kanapesky did not receive credit for a quiz he attempted on Blackboard Learn because he lost Wi-Fi connection in the Business Administration Building and failed to reestablish connection in the short timeframe given to complete the quiz.

Upon contacting his professor with concerns, the professor explained a Wi-Fi error during a test or quiz is not a valid excuse for a retake, as each student accepts individually responsibility for ensuring the bandwidth and signal are strong enough to take an exam.

Kanapesky then contacted the dean of his college who echoed the same remarks as the professor.

“The professor said the only way he would reopen the quiz was if I could prove the Wi-Fi cut out in that section of the building during the six minutes I was attempting the quiz,” Kanapesky said. “Such documentation will almost never exist unless it involves a campus-wide shutdown for an extended period of time or scheduled maintenance.

Raber said students can prevent loss of connection by sitting in a location where you have experienced strong Wi-Fi connection in the past.    

“When you are taking an exam that is critical to your grade you really want to try to control as many variables as you can,” said Raber. “We certainly recommend that if you are going to be taking a test you do so in an area where the wireless is known to be good.”

Raber added students should measure their Wi-Fi signal to aim for three or more bars when taking an exam and determine the crowding of their access point with other student’s electronic devices.

“There is really nothing physical that tells a student that it is heavily saturated other than just kind of looking around,” Raber said in regards to how to measure a router situation.

Kanapesky’s experience while related to Wi-Fi is not the only technological struggle students have with mandated technological infrastructure and programs.  

“There is nothing a student would know, but from an infrastructure perspective there is a lot of monitoring that goes on that tells us about experience” Raber said. “The closer you can sit to an access point the more reliable your signal is gonna be.”

Junior double-major in fine arts and premed, Mackenzie Godbey expressed her concerns with exams via Proctoru.

During an exam using Proctoru which requires the test taker to remain in a quiet, empty room, a housemate played loud music over their intercom system not knowing Godbey had a test in progress.

“The proctor failed me because they thought someone else was in the room,” Godbey said. “My professor would not allow me to retake it so I ended up having to drop the class because there was no way I could pass the course with a zero.”

“I got a W for withdraw on my transcript, and had to retake it the next semester” said Godbey. “I had to pay twice and it actually put me really behind in my schedule because it was a class I needed for a prerequisite.”

Godbey explained while she understands how in her situation the mishap could have come off as cheating, she does not think Proctoru should be used as a standard.

“I have had other courses where they have used other exam things like lockdown browsers which I think are a lot more efficient than Proctoru,” Godbey said.

Senior educational studies major, Arianna Shmenk-Langhals, experienced similar technical difficulties when her proctorer on Proctoru insisted she restart her internet router with a timed test in progress.

“I think it is unfair when professors expect students to contact Blackboard or Proctoru instead of just giving them an extension,” Shmenk-Langhals said.

Raber said if student feels they have been treated unfairly in a technology related incident their best course of action would be to file a grievance with the Student Ombuds, Amy Quillin.

“(Technology issues) are likely a case-to-case kind of thing so I don’t know if the university has an across the board response” Quillin said.

Madeline Scalzi is a student life and education reporter. Contact her at [email protected].