Some student organisations have taken exception to the mobile app which asks for selfies during exams and monitors students writing from the same location.  

The Unisa South African Students Congress (Sasco) Ekhuruleni branch and the Unisa Law Students Association (ULSA), have rejected the university’s introduction of a mobile invigilation tool for the year-end exams and the online exam process. 

The Invigilator App uses facial recognition, detects speech and GPS mapping and will randomly ask students to take selfies and pictures of their laptops during the exam. The GPS system will flag students writing in the same location for possible cheating. 

Sasco has labelled the app, which is part of Unisa’s strategy to maintain academic integrity and a zero-tolerance policy for cheating, as a tool of obstruction and distraction in the exam process. 

A statement released by Sasco on Friday, September 10, 2021 said, “The idea that students should be taking stupid things like a selfie during an exam like this is snapchat is pathetic.” 

In response to the complaints and concerns over the app, the institution has said the use of the app is non-negotiable. In an email sent out to students on Saturday, September 11, Unisa said, “Given the number of disciplinary cases identified and suspension of students who have been found guilty of examination misconduct, it became important for Unisa to invigilate online examinations.” 

Nicholas Ramier, CEO and co-founder of the app, told Wits Vuvuzela, “The mapping feature prevents students from writing in groups during exams.” He added that, “Flagging of close proximity does not mean cheating has been detected. Lecturers will be directed to those scripts just to ensure no visible copying has taken place.” 

Unisa conducted a pilot study of the app during final exams in 2020, and this year more modules have been included for 250 000 students to be assessed through this platform. Failure to use the app will result in disciplinary processes. 

Third-year accounting student at Unisa, Njabulo Majozi, who was exposed to the app last year through the pilot study, said the app is easy to use because it is accessible on your phone and is convenient for those with no laptops. “Due to the super semester, it was expected that we would use the app this year,” he said. 

To date, the app is used by various institutions in the country including the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Rhodes University and Boston City Campus. 

Bongi Nyongwana, an accounting student at UJ who has been using the app for tests and exams, said, “The app can be distracting, and I easily lose concentration when it pings and asks for selfies.”

Unisa is writing the first set of exams for the 2021 academic year and the university maintains that the invigilation exists to protect students’ qualifications for future employment.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Unisa has introduced the Invigilator app to minimise examination misconduct. Photo: Sinenhlanhla Sibisi