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At this rate, we’ll soon be doing exams naked

With wearable hardware rapidly growing in popularity, two universities have decided to ban all wristwatches from exam halls, to prevent high-tech cheating.

2015 is shaping up to be the year of the wearable, with the Apple Watch en route and a bunch of other top-notch contenders already on the market, but the rise of the smartwatch isn’t being viewed as a solely positive thing by some university decision makers.

According to reports, the University of London and the City University in London have now banned all wristwatches in exam halls, to mitigate the risk of students using their wearables to cheat or share answers with friends.

Obviously, banning even an analogue Casio wristwatch from the 90s seems slightly heavy-handed, but the institutions claim they simply don’t have the time or manpower to do a spec-check on every watch, making a blanket ban the easiest thing to enforce.

A representative from City University said “Last year, colleagues and invigilators raised the issue of how we would identify a smartwatch in an examination setting. In large exam venues, with over 100 students, it simply wouldn’t be practical to ask invigilators to check each watch.” So looks like students will have to flash their wrists as they enter exam halls from now on.

“We conducted some sector research in the autumn term of 2014 and learned that a number of universities have recently introduced a similar policy,” the rep continued. “Students are already asked to place mobile phones in a plastic wallet under their desk, so we adopted the same procedure for watches. Students either don’t wear them to an exam venue, or they remove the watch in the venue and place it in the plastic wallet”.

It’s believed that the imminent release of the Apple Watch will see smartwatches leap in popularity, although how on Earth students are supposed to afford these expensive gizmos is beyond us. Once you factor in beer, Pot Noodles and the occasional pack of Rizlas, there’s barely enough left for a late-night Big Mac meal.

It’s understandable that educators want to maintain an even playing-field in examinations. After all, what’s the point of an expensive education if you just fudge a first by cheating on your exams with the help of your smartwatch. However, a blanket ban on all wristwatches in exams serves to highlight how technology is viewed by people who are unfamiliar with it – with fear.

While we’re not entirely against this decision to prevent smartwatch use in exams, we get the feeling that it’s about time rule-makers got to grips with technology instead of viewing it like lords of the manner once viewed the printing press.

Maybe, in time, signal jammers will take the place of plastic wallets in exam halls, but as long as we have luddites in positions of authority, things will never develop or be understood. They’ll simply be banned.

And with the rise of increasingly versatile wearables, we’ll soon be sat stark naked in exam halls up and down the land – and that will be bad news for everyone, from the hapless, chilly students to the person who has to clean the butt-sweat from the chairs.

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