Respondus & Accessibility: Info for Instructors

Highlights

  1. Please provide students with information about the format of any online exams well in advance (i.e. multiple choice, short answer, essay, slide identification, video, etc.) as this is needed in order to work out many accommodation issues.
  2. Please also tell students the date, time and duration of the exam.
  3. Keep in mind that all final exams will be scheduled by the Registrar to avoid conflicts.
  4. Online exams improve accessibility for some students and introduce new issues for others. SAS is available to help troubleshoot problems.

Green: No Problems

If SAS students require these accommodations, we anticipate that accessibility can be easily addressed.

Extra Time

Most online exams can be adjusted to allow for extra time (a standard accommodation).

Spelling

Some students with learning disabilities require consideration around spelling. Under normal circumstances, this is provided through the use of a word processor. When using Respondus LockDown Browser, the spell check feature is available by default. We recommend that this not be turned off.

If spelling is a part of the grading criteria and must be deactivated, please ensure you announce this to the class in well in advance.

Typed Answers

Under normal circumstances, there are a number of students who cannot write paper and pencil/pen exams. Online exams make this a non-issue.

Yellow: Possible Problems

Accommodations in this category might be a problem. Students may need to reach out to their SAS Advisor for assistance with these barriers.

Furniture & Equipment

This includes ergonomic desks, chairs, computers and specific forms of lighting. For students who have a new disability (e.g. been in a recent accident), they may not have an appropriate setup at home.

A distraction-reduced environment

We know some students have family, roommates, or other sources of distraction in the home that are difficult to manage. For students who are susceptible to distraction by the nature of their disability, this could be a problem.

Adaptive Software

Respondus has made allowances for some assistive software programs such as screen readers, however there are some problems such as disabling shortcut keys. Text-to-voice software (Kurzweil 3000) is the most commonly used assistive technocholgy in the SAS Exam Centre is blocked by Respondus.

Risk of Medical Emergency

There are a handful of students who have medical conditions that are exacerbated by stressful situations such as writing exams. Normally they are seated close to a staff member who can call for medical assistance if needed.

Reader / Scribe

For the most part, students now use technology instead of a reader/scribe. However, on occasion the technology is insufficient and one-on-one support is required. Depending on the need, we may be able to arrange for assistance via Teams or Zoom.

Calculator

Calculators are sometimes required as an accommodation. In the SAS Exam Centre, calculators are scrutinized and (if applicable) students are asked to reset the memory. It may be more difficult to assess whether students are using an appropriate calculator when writing an online exam.

Scheduling Issues

Some students are unable to write exams at specific times of day because of a medication they take, or other limitations on their functioning. In addition, there are some students who can only write one exam per day – frequently this is related to chronic pain, fatigue, or other symptoms that reduce overall functioning.

Memory Aids

A memory aid must be approved by the course instructor before the exam. When using Respondus, the student is expected to hold the memory aid up to the camera and show both the front and back.

Scrap Paper

If students are using scrap paper to work out an answer, Respondus may flag such activity as a problem that needs to be reviewed. Many SAS students use scrap paper to help with strategies, including prevention of “blanking out” due to anxiety.  

Students should be expected to hold the scrap paper up to the camera and show both sides.

Red: Potential Issues for Academic Integrity

If a student requests any of the following accommodations, it is important to verify that the accommodation is supported by SAS. If you have concerns, please inquire as to how other instructors are responding to these needs.

Breaks and Washroom

There is a wide range of legitimate reasons for students to need breaks or access to a washroom for an urgent need. When using virtual proctoring it will be difficult or impossible to know what students are doing if they step away from the computer. 

Headphones

Some students use noise cancelling headphones to help reduce distractions, but in an online setting it would be impossible to know whether they are listening to a recording that contains information relevant to the exam.  SAS recommends earplugs instead, which are readily available at most pharmacies.

Question Clarification

Respondus LockDown Browser prevents students from emailing questions to the instructor. In addition, using a cell phone during an exam would be a threat to academic integrity and faculty are not expected to make their personal phone numbers available to students.

Our normal process for this in the SAS Exam Centre is for the staff to email or call the instructor (or their designate) based on prior arrangements. This accommodation is commonly for students with a learning disability, acquired brain injury, or medication that affects information processing.

Grammar

The need for consideration around grammar (for a learning disability) is usually accommodated through the use of a word processor.  Whereas Respondus LockDown Browswer permits spell checking, there is no built-in grammar check. In addition, Respondus prevents students from using a word processor and then copying their answers over into the browser.

Music or Whitenoise

Some students use music to help with calming or staying grounded during high anxiety times. In the SAS Exam Centre, all music is carefully screened to ensure it does not contain content relevant to the exam.  When using Respondus, students are instructed to turn off music and background noises that might interfere with the virtual proctoring system.

Intrusive Thoughts & Dissociation

Some students have experienced trauma related to being stalked, bullied or harassed online. Othes have conditions that result in intrusive thoughts such as obsessive compulsive disorder, or psychosis. In these cases, Respondus Monitor can trigger symptoms where the only alternative might be to disable the software and have a staff member invigilate instead.