E-Assessment Integrity

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Online education has seen a boom of late. The main driving factors have been the coming of age of the internet with connected technology, and the speed of internet access making it possible for quality live streaming of lectures and lessons. 

Another major factor boosting the popularity of online learning has been the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and quarantine measures have made regular classroom learning impossible in many places, forcing educational institutions like schools and universities to offer classes, lectures and exams online to keep learners on track. In addition, COVID-19 has put many in uncertain employment situations and has led to people seeking alternative potential career paths.

While this boom is great for education in general, one of the big questions remains: how can you provide exams online with the same type of integrity and security of pen-and-paper exams at examination locations while still taking advantage of the flexibility of online learning?

The answer is online proctoring.

But what is online proctoring? What is the difference between proctored and non-proctored exams, and how does online proctoring software keep people from cheating?

What is Proctoring?

Traditionally, a proctored exam is where someone (the proctor) physically oversees exam-takers at a set location. The proctor is an independent, unbiased person whose sole duty is to run the exam – from authenticating the identities of candidates to monitoring and invigilating exam-takers to ensure that there are no violations of the exam codes of conduct and that no cheating occurs. A proctor has the authority to stop the test, should they spot or suspect any irregularities such as cheating. Proctoring has a major impact on the integrity and validity of an exam. When you take an invigilated exam, you have someone watching you while you take it.

What is Online Proctoring Software?

Online proctoring is the same, with a tech-twist. Online proctoring software is essentially an automated or remote version of physical proctoring via the internet. It performs exactly the same functions as a physical proctor: it authenticates the identity of candidates, monitors exam-takers for irregularities and cheating, and reports any such incidents should they occur. When taking an online proctored exam, the candidate must accept things like screen- and audio-sharing, the use of algorithms that detect things like mobile phones, monitor facial presence, eye-movement, as well as whether there is more than one person in the room. The candidate must also allow the monitoring of applications on the candidate’s computer for the duration of the exam.

Types of Online Proctoring Software

Online proctoring doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t humans involved who are checking up on you while you take the exam. There are different kinds of proctoring with varying degrees of human involvement, namely live online proctoring, recorded proctoring, and fully automated proctoring.

Live Proctoring:
With live proctoring, a human remotely performs proctoring duties like ID authentication and monitoring the exam via webcam. This is the closest to ‘regular’ proctoring. The drawback of live proctoring is that there is a limit on the number of candidates that one proctor can monitor.

Auto Proctoring:
Using advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology and algorithms like those men-tioned earlier to monitor candidates over live webcam feeds. The AI is trained to spot and flag many types of irregular and suspect behaviors to a very high degree of accu-racy. A great advantage of auto proctoring is its scalability. Because there is little to no human interaction, it can monitor any number of exam-takers.

Recorded Proctoring:
Falling somewhere between live proctoring and auto proctoring, with recorded proctoring, the exam taker’s screen and audio is monitored throughout the entire exam session and recorded to enable a human proctor to review the session afterward. Recorded proctoring uses things like screen-sharing and other audio-visual tools. Recorded proctoring can monitor any number of candidates at once, however since there is a measure of human interaction, the number is limited since a human proctor can only review individual exams so fast. The larger the number of exam-takers, the more human proctors is needed to review recorded sessions.

Why is Online Proctoring important?

  1. Prevents cheating
    One of the greatest concerns for online examiners is cheating. It’s easy for someone to quickly look up the answer to a question online, consult a textbook, or cheat-notes. However, online proctoring software employs several methods to prevent cheating. This includes extensive monitoring of both the candidate, their computer, as well as their environment for irregularities using advanced AI technologies mentioned above. These technologies can block certain applications and websites that might aid the candidate in any way. Online proctoring is often supplemented by anti-cheating measures like randomised questions from a question bank, timed questions, and problem-solving questions to deter would-be cheaters.
  2. Makes education more accessible
    Traditionally, if you wanted to study something, you had to be in a learning institution that offered the course you were interested in. This was a major challenge for many, especially those living in remote or outlying areas, or where local educational institutions didn’t offer the desired courses. Online learning has changed all of that and has enabled anyone with an internet connection to access an immensely wide range of courses and qualifications. Despite this, exams have always been a problem and many institutions still require students to travel to specific examination locations to take exams. Online proctoring and online exams have changed all of this since exams can be taken under the same supervision as at physical examination centers.
  3. Accommodates flexible schedules
    Online learning has also enabled them to fit learning in with their schedules, as opposed to the other way around where classes and exams were held at set times. This goes for teachers as well. With online proctoring software, there is no longer a need to find a proctor that is available at a certain time, as the time of the exam or test can be set according to what the student and/or teacher’s schedules allow. This makes tests and exams a lot more convenient.
  4. Suited to all kinds of tests and exams
    Part of online proctoring’s rise in popularity is its flexibility. Due to its intuitive nature, online proctoring can be used for tests and exams of all kinds. Any type of assess-ment, from multiple-choice, lengthier, essay-type papers, coding tests, a variety of ap-titude tests, or a mix of types of questions on the same page can be supervised by on-line proctoring. Online proctoring can even be used for any online-based exam.
A woman is talking to a web camera and smiling using online proctoring software

Online learning and online exams have come a long way since the dawn of the internet. The internet has become more accessible, connection speeds and bandwidth have increased, and technological advances in the field of artificial intelligence have all contributed to make e-learning and e-assessment  a viable alternative to physically attending school. Online proctoring has made an immense contribution towards obtaining legitimacy within the education sector and online qualifications are becoming more and more recognised due to the security and authenticity that online proctoring brings to assessment and evaluation.

Discover how to protect your candidates’ exam experience.

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Cristina Gilbert
Copywriter and digital content enthusiast, Cristina is motivated by the fast-paced world of e-assessment and the opportunities online exams give students to thrive.
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