Robotic Proctor Proctors Robotically

This story has been making the rounds on technology websites lately. It talks about a device that purveyors of online university degrees can use to help make sure that their students aren’t cheating during online tests. The device plugs into one’s computer, then during the test it locks things down so that students can’t consult Google or Wikipedia for their test answers. But what’s more, the device is equipped with a microphone and 360-degree camera that will flag movement and sounds for future review by a proctor in absentia. It does not, unfortunately, instantly vaporize the offending student.

The devices are really pretty cheap at $125, which begs the question of whether or not this kind of roboproctor will migrate from the world of educational testing to the one of pre-employment screening. Unproctored, online testing is a hot topic in the I-O world right now, mainly because many companies are trying to figure out how to leverage information technology and the Internet in general to drive down the costs of testing, especially in far flung locations. Which would you rather do, pay mileage or even airfare for someone to come in to your office or overnight one of these roboproctors to her house and have her take the test at home?

Still, people are already raising the issue of privacy with these devices. And to be sure, I’m not sure I’d want a potential employer to have a 360-degree view of the room where I keep my computer, cluttered as it is. And what about dress? Should I wear my jammies while sitting in front of this thing, or do I have to dress up? And you know, I’m not too crazy about the idea of plugging some strange device into my precious computer and having it install all kinds of wonky stuff that is designed by nature to spy on me.

In the end, I think a more likely use for devices like this wouldn’t be at home, but in the field. One testing company with which I’ve worked has already created test-taking rooms that contain various cameras and microphones instead of stools for proctors to perch upon, with careful hunts for cheaters happening electronically, several testing rooms at a time, from elsewhere in the building.

But I think you could go smaller than that, even. I could easily envision remote testing offices having things like this on hand to oversee tests where more fleshy proctors don’t want to make the trip. Testing could be done more easily in retail locations, too, where applicants could walk right in, apply, and test all at once.

Now, if we could just strap a laser death ray onto that thing we’d be in business.

Link and Run #3 (6/15/07)

An Open Letter to the Internet

Dear members of the Internet,

Look, you need to stop acting surprised when you post embarrassing stuff about yourself online only to have it come around and cost you a job offer. Employers are increasingly doing cursory Google searches on you while they’re bored at work, and they’re picking up on stuff like that time you got SOOOO hammered or that time you stole a stole that street sign for some reason that sounded good at the time. Possibly because it was the same time as that time you go SOOOO hammered. And when they’ve got more applicants than openings, employers may use this stuff to flick your application into the trash bin.

I know, I know –it’s not fair, and neither is it even actually a productive (or safe) selection tool for the employer. And sometimes employers (or schools) make really dumb calls and read too much into things, like the woman who was denied a teaching certificate because of a MySpace page with a picture of her wearing a pirate hat, drinking from a plastic cup, and a caption that read “Drunken Pirate.” Yes, that’s dumb on the university but honestly a lot of the things I see on blogs, MySpace pages, YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook is just mind boggling.

Here’s what you need to understand: The Internet is a public place. It’s not unlike standing on a street corner and saying things to anyone who wanders by, except that it’s all recorded, indexed, and searchable by your prospective employers. So don’t say or show anything there that you would be mortified to see show up in a job interview. Or, for that matter, a discussion with your spouse, kids, parents, neighbors, friends, teachers, or dog.

If you must have a personal blog, keep it clean if you want to play it safe. Not every post needs to read like a cover letter, but neither should you willfully incriminate yourself or come across as some kind of semi literate nincompoop. Making hiring decisions based on information found on the web isn’t fair and it isn’t valid, but it happens.

And if all else fails, you can start a website related to your work so that they actually DO find something relevant.



Link and Run #2 (6/5/07)

By the way, I’m in search of good blogs on HR, staffing, recruiting, I/O Psych, and related topics so that I can feature them here in these updates. If you have one or know of one, let me know.

Fun with Wikipedia: Personality Tests

Short week means a busy week and a short update. So let’s just play a game and see how many weird and wrong things we can find in this Wikipedia entry on personality testing. I’ll start by noting that it cites Donald Trump as a reference.

I started to think that an I/O Wiki by those in the business would be a great resource, and maybe it does exist somewhere in the folds and crevices of the Internet. But honestly I’d just rather have everything on Wikipedia be correct and comprehensive. Is that so much to ask?