Smartwatch bans sweep universities during exams, signal general distrust

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Gone are the days of cheating on exams with the good old-fashioned cheat-sheet-in-a-water-bottle ruse. The advent of the smartwatch (read: Apple Watch) now makes fact checking as simple as the flick of the wrist — a notion that universities around the world have caught on to, and are now faced with the problem of fixing.

To avoid the nuisance of checking individual wrists, Artevelde College in Belgium became one of the first universities to place an outright ban on all watches during exams. In similar fashion, students of Massey University in New Zealand and London’s City University have placed watch restrictions on exam rooms, with the latter school’s policy now stating, “Due to the introduction of smart watches, candidates are no longer permitted to wear any kind of wrist watch in an examination venue.”

There have been no reports thus far of students cheating using smartwatches, which begs the question: Why the extreme paranoia? Are these universities just taking extra safety measures, or could this perhaps speak to a generational distrust of technology?

Southampton University, Oxford, and Cambridge have also begun to take precautions, although on a more ambiguous scale (“non-approved electronic devices” are not allowed, for example). For all intents and purposes, it is easier for these schools to consider watches on par with smartphones during testing — and they aren’t necessarily wrong.

But what will happen when embeddables become the new wearables? When smart contact lenses, ear magnets, or RFID chips installed beneath the skin become mainstream? These technologies may seem like science fiction, but so did smartphones less than a decade ago. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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