[opensource] New Web Browser
Adam C. Champion
champion at cse.ohio-state.edu
Thu Oct 25 00:32:37 EDT 2007
Great writeup, Brian! I wondered what this "Lockdown Browser" I saw on
Carmen was. Since my research interests are computer and network
security, I find the "'secure' testing" problem domain and this
"lockdown" behavior intriguing. How do you provide students with Web
access and form submission for an online test yet deny them most of the
user-interface requirements of a Web browser (let alone "normal" use of
Windows)? It seems Respondus is using IE components due to its ActiveX
script requirement---but how does it "lock down" students' *entire*
interaction with the OS (e.g., prevent them from closing or minimizing
I share your concerns about DRM. Last year, I wrote an honors thesis on
the proliferation of trusted computing, DRM, and the associated legal
and social ramifications; it's online at my website
(http://www.cse.ohio-state.edu/~champion). From what I read on your
writeup, however, I don't think the browser uses DRM; it "merely"
controls the user's interaction with the (proprietary) WebCT application
and the Windows OS. I would normally associate DRM with copyright owners
enforcing usage policies with legally-purchased digital works, like
songs and movies. The only copyright issues I see are those associated
with "who owns" the test and any images included therein (like the
copyrighted Wikipedia image), as well as Blackboard, Inc., which holds
the copyright to WebCT and its trade secrets. Certainly, OSU's
contract/site license with WebCT and Respondus is another
intellectual-property issue. But, of course, I am not a lawyer :).
I strongly believe that paper-and-pencil tests are one of *the* best
ways to check that students have learned course material. Vigilant
proctors/instructors should deter students from cheating; if students
perceive they will be "caught in the act," they will be less likely to
cheat than if they notice the TA engrossed in a paper and think they can
get away with cheating. Besides, if you're taking an computer-based test
that requires you to answer a set of questions before going on to the
next set, you may not be able to go back and check/correct your previous
answers within the test's time limit. (If you've taken the
computer-based GRE, you know *exactly* what I'm talking about!)
Just my two cents.
P.S. When I tried to read your "Carmen response" links, my firewall
logged attempted connections from the CSE department website on ports
39728-9 and 50697-8. Any idea what's going on? Is it the spam filter?
Brian Swaney wrote:
> Ok, I tried sending this directly to the list, but it seems to trip all
> of the spam alarms. I'll try linking to a web page this time. The same
> general message is there. Basically, DRM meets OSU, and out pops this
> new program.
> Any comments are welcome.
> -Brian Swaney
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