On-site test or the traditional pen & paper examination is a thing of the past! With the COVID-19 lockdown, there has been a sudden revolution in the way examinations are conducted these days. Test writing strategies have undergone a perpetual change.
Educational institutions are turning to digital alternatives to improve their activities and operations. Institutions have slowly graduated to remote learning and are transitioning to proctoring exams online or remotely to maintain a continuity of the educational lifecycle.
Educational institutions are also making changes to their grading procedures and policies as well as adapting to some of the best online proctoring (also known as remote proctoring) tools and techniques. According to a recent QuickPoll by the non-profit association, Educause, approximately 54% of educational institutions are availing online or remote proctoring services, while another 23% of them are considering the use of online proctoring services in the near future.
What is online (or remote) proctoring?
Online proctoring is a technology-based, convenient and reliable alternative to conventional on-site proctoring. Traditional center-based proctoring involved having a proctor physical present in the room to oversee the process of an examination where students answer tests using the old method of pen-and-paper. However, today, many efficient technology-based or AI-driven online proctoring solutions and services are available.
Using an online proctoring solution or service, students can take a test online from a remote location using a suitable personal device. The integrity of the test is maintained with the help of AI-enabled monitoring tools guaranteeing the highest level of security and holistic experience for both the educators and the students.
Two important types of online proctoring
There are different types of online proctoring depending on the typical needs of each institution such as budget, holistic experience, levels of risk and test security. Let us discuss two main types of online proctoring and look at the differences between the two.
Live online or remote proctoring
Live remote or online proctoring involves a live qualified and experienced proctor to oversee the entire test procedure. The proctor and the test candidate may both be miles apart, however, the proctor by way of real-time monitoring, invigilates the entire test by having access to the test candidate’s screen share feeds and audio-video files. The proctor can also raise red flags in case the candidate uses any kind of unfair practices.
The live proctor has the power to authenticate the test candidate’s identity and also to pause in between the test to investigate any signs of aberrant behavior. The right to terminate a test in case of suspicious activity or cheating during the test also lies with the proctor. However, live online or remote proctoring is less scalable and exorbitantly priced. Plus, using this method of online proctoring requires the tests to be scheduled in advance as it requires sufficient human involvement.
Automated online or remote proctoring
Automated remote or online proctoring is the most advanced form of proctoring. In this mode, there is no live proctor and the entire test process is monitored through a software. Using advanced analytics (both audio and video) and face recognition, the software authenticates the identity of the test candidate.
The software system also monitors the audio-video feeds for malpractices. It ensures that the room is sufficiently lit and there is no other human presence as an accomplice other than the test candidate. The automated online proctoring system is also equipped to detect possible chances of cheating such as detecting if the test candidate opens another software or system to check answers. This mode of online proctoring is highly scalable, does not require prior scheduling and is cost-effective in nature.
Advantages of online or remote proctoring
Here are some of the advantages of opting for online or remote proctoring solution:
- Ease of automation – The basic requirements of conducting an examination is standardization, evaluation, and supervision that involves a lot of planning, scheduling, and manpower. However, with online proctoring solutions the entire process can be made easy. Remote proctoring solutions help in setting up auto-gradable assessments. With an automated grading system and an accurate scoring mechanism, proctoring tools and solutions significantly reduce the burden on the teachers. At the same time, automatic scoring guarantees fairness and provides flexibility.
- Cost-effective – Online proctoring is a much better option than conventional method of exams. It is cost-effective with respect to aspects such as logistics, administrative costs, and the expensive human workforce required to conduct an examination in a traditional setting. With remote or online proctoring, you do not need to rent classrooms or hire live proctors. Proctoring softwares take care of a lot of things simultaneously, improving the consistency of the entire process. With guaranteed uptime, the number of assessments can also be increased depending on the need without any extra expense.
- Convenient & reliable – Remote proctoring removes location and time constraints making it extremely convenient for the test candidates as well as the educators. Candidates can take a test from the comfort of their own place in any remote location without hassle. Especially, with pandemic related confinement, there is no need to travel to a test center. There is an added advantage of privacy with these online proctoring solutions. It also provides a level playing ground and imparts fairness to the tests through the various AI-enabled real-time monitoring tools that efficiently monitor each move of the test candidate during the test.
- Environmental friendly & time-saving – An online proctored exam is completely paperless and hence environmental friendly. Remote proctoring also saves a lot of time. Usually a lot of end-to-end management goes in to schedule an exam; however, with online proctoring, right from inviting the candidates to reporting the results can be generated instantly.
Different ways to conduct a cheat-free exam
Most educational institutions have been compelled to restrategize in the wake of global health crisis and go online with their talent assessments, academics, and other certification courses. Universities, schools and colleges are choosing to make use of the best remote or online proctoring solutions that make conducting online assessment easier.
Advanced online proctoring platforms use biometrics and AI-enabled tools for identity verification of candidates. Other precautions such as blocking multiple windows, logging suspicious browser activity while taking a test, or setting up personalized performance-based questions for each test candidate go a long way to ensure that a fool-proof mechanism is in place to conduct an exam. Yet, test candidates cheat in various ways to score in an exam.
Certain best practices or practical suggestions should be kept in mind while conducting an online proctored exam. Following are a few strategies to effectively reduce the chances of cheating and maintain academic integrity.
- Use varied question types of higher order: It is always better to include a mix of question types while setting an assignment. Other than the usual multiple choice or open-ended questions, it is beneficial if certain questions are subjective, where test candidates need to apply their higher order of thinking to support their answers with narratives and specific details. This becomes challenging and answers cannot be provided using a simple web search or scanning through a textbook.
- Display a single question on the screen with a set timer: Set up an assignment that shows only one question at a time on the screen. Also set a time limit for each question. This restricts the urge of the test candidates to go through the entire questionnaire and look for answers to the ones that they find difficult. Setting up a time limit takes the security a notch higher where test candidates are deterred from deviating to other means of looking for answers.
- Restrict backtracking and number of attempts: By prohibiting or restricting backtracking and also restricting the number of attempts to answer a question, test candidates will not be able to go back to a question later, taking extra time and effort to hunt for the right answer and then replace it with the previous answer.
- Refrain from immediate display of scores: It is best not to display the test scores and feedback immediately after the completion of the test. This will help in maintaining the integrity of the test, where one test candidate will not be able to check the score and inform his/her friend who is still in the process of completing the test.
- Discourage test reviews: In case a test candidate requests to review the entire test, allow reviewing of only the incorrectly answered questions and not all the questions. This way test candidates will not be able to copy or download the test for the next batch of candidates taking the test.
- Be prepared to resolve technical issues: To avoid dealing with system breakdown, test settings should be engaged in such a way that once a test candidate exits or there is a system crash or in case time runs out, it is important to save the questions already answered. In case where the test candidate gets a chance to resume the test, then she can easily resume from where it was discontinued within the remaining time frame.
Today online proctoring tools have a lot of inherent features that make it possible to streamline and monitor tests so that the credibility of the test remains uncompromised. However, instructors or educators setting up the online proctored tests can use some of these precautions to safeguard the occurrence of malpractices during an online test. Creatively reminding the test candidates of test integrity just before the test begins is another way to make a psychological impact on the candidates and ensure they are deterred from resorting to unfair means of cheating.
Conclusion : Online proctoring solutions are much better, faster, cheaper, and fairer as compared to conventional methods of proctoring. With the right proctoring solutions, the process of conducting an examination can be successfully automated right from scheduling the tests, monitoring the tests, grading the assessments, to declaring the results online. AI-driven proctoring solutions also ensure integrity, removing the chances of human error and bias, leading to a seamless and affordable holistic experience for both the educators and the test candidates.