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Imagine a world where lawyers cheated on their bar exams.  That chartered accountant you hired had someone else take their exam.  Your mechanic found the test answers to their ASE online somewhere and you need your brakes fixed…the world would descend into chaos and destruction pretty quickly if cheating weren’t addressed.

Institutions new to online exam platforms are often concerned about maintaining the integrity of the exam experience in ways that are comparable to exam halls and pen-and-paper exams. Cheating with digital exams can take many forms, from having someone else take an exam for the student, looking up answers with a web browser, or faking identities to get third-party assistance.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways e-assessment platforms ensure that people are as qualified as they say they are:

Online proctoring

Online proctoring, or proctored testing, involves monitoring students taking online exams with software and other services. This helps protect academic integrity, prevent cheating, and support students in completing their online exams. One of the benefits of online proctoring is that these services tackle cheating in a variety of ways, using common and more advanced features.

Common features include ID verification, video monitoring and sound detection, browser lockdown software, and an approved list of URL sites and applications. These are the pretty basic functions, but depending on the needs of your organization, more advanced methods might be more up your alley. These include:

Cell phone detection – Everyone has a phone in their pocket nowadays that can provide easy access to all of the answers to their exam. Features that detect eye movement and cell usage will deter this method of cheating.

Live pop-In – This proctoring feature combines the benefits of AI proctoring and live human proctoring. Live pop-in can detect cheating warnings through AI, and then an instructor will pop in to monitor the test in person!

Meaningful voice detection – Sound detection and monitoring is a common test proctoring feature, but often results in an abundance of false flags. Meaningful voice detection listens for specific keywords or phrases, such as “Hey Siri” or “OK Google,” to identify students who may be trying to cheat. It then alerts a live remote proctor in real-time to pop into the online test session to intervene and help redirect the student.

Preventing cheating with lock-down mode

One of the major issues facing online assessment examiners is the ability of exam-takers to access other applications like browsers for information, instant messages, or copy information from notes during an exam. These abilities open up opportunities for cheating during an online exam. To curb this, Cirrus employs what is known as a “lockdown browser” or “lockdown mode” within an application. As the name suggests, these applications lock the exam taker’s device on the assessment window that cannot be closed or exited until the test or exam has been submitted.

Other functions include preventing exam-takers from accessing other applications by blocking the use of browsers, remote desktops, instant messaging, certain keystroke combinations, right-click options. It also disables inter-app functionality like copying and pasting, the use of virtual machines, screen capturing, and any other app that might create an opportunity for cheating, among others.

Lockdown modes and browsers can be configured according to the type of assessment. Some assessments require the use of spreadsheets or word processing software or browsers to access certain information on the web. In cases like these certain toolbar options are removed and access to sites is restricted.

A variation on “Lockdown Mode” is “Logdown mode” where instead of running a “locked down” application, exam-takers log in to a certain profile that has certain restrictions in place. Similar to “lockdown”, a “logdown” session can only be terminated once the assessment has been submitted.

The importance of built-in encryption

Data security is a big concern for examiners. If any examination information, like papers and answers, and even personal information of exam takers is leaked, tampered with, or accessed illegally, it can compromise the validity of the exam altogether. One of the best and most well-known ways to protect data is through encryption. But what is encryption and why is it so important, especially for online examinations?

What is encryption?

Encryption is a way to protect data by scrambling it in such a way that makes it impossible to read without a translation key, or requiring a password to access data. It ranges from the most basic, like replacing letters with numbers in a note to a friend, to incredibly complex systems used by those dealing with extremely sensitive information, like governments, financial institutions, and the military.

Regardless of the complexity of the system, all encryption relies on a basic principle of encryption and keys. Data gets encrypted at one end, be it a message at a sender, or a file on your computer, which can then be decrypted with the help of a special key generated during the encryption process. Without the key, you can’t access the data.

Why should exam data be encrypted?

The internet and the world wide web have enabled us to achieve great things. It has made the spread of knowledge easier, allowed us to connect with people all over the world, and made our lives easier with things like online shopping and e-learning. Without the internet, life during the recent pandemic would have been very different. The fact that we “live” on the internet means that we share a lot of personal information, like banking details, where we live and work, who our friends are, and even where we go on holiday. All of this information has attracted a nefarious element looking to get hold of the information so they can exploit it, often for financial purposes, but even for things like cheating in exams. Encryption is a way to keep these criminals from both accessing and using your data.

For online examinations, encryption not only ensures that personal information is protected, but it also ensures that exam data like papers and questions reach exam takers, and data like test answers that go back to examiners, without anyone being able to intercept the data along the way and use it to cheat. This aids greatly in ensuring the validity and integrity of exams.

The validity of educational programs relies heavily on the quality of assessment. This is directly influenced by the ability of assessment providers to curb and deter cheating and unauthorized data manipulation. While data online is never 100% secure, there are several steps companies can take to protect assessment data, and provide assessments of the highest quality.

Besides remote proctoring, lock-down mode and military-grade encryption, Cirrus offers a range of other options to protect the integrity of your online assessments, such as randomised question selection and blueprinting. Contact us to learn more, or request a free demo.