Securing Online Tests with Remote Proctoring - One Step Closer to Changing Online Degrees

A little history of online schools

Online tests have been around since 1995 (!). Although personal computers were a rage during the 90’s, they were mainly used as an aid or as an email transceiver. The employers did not greet the students that took online degrees with an open heart.

Fake diplomas were popular – a student had to mail in a few hundred dollars, and they would receive a graduation certificate through the mail a few weeks later.

It took another decade before employers accepted online tests. In the early 2000s, leading scientist from Harvard, Stanford, and MIT started companies that provided Massive Open Online Courses. It worked at first and then suddenly they did not. Some examples of MOOCs are Coursera, HubSpot, and EdX.

Then there were open badges. Badges indicated specific skills or expertise, was linked to electronic evidence of how and why, exactly, the badge was earned by an individual.

Badges are provided by many institutions including but not limited to IBM, Mozilla, Acclaim, Illinois Online Network, Michigan State University, and Microsoft Educator Network.

Where we stand today

A lot of discussion goes on among students, professionals, and employers about the credibility of degrees earned through online education. 

There are still so many employers who find a degree received by an online course a little unsettling.

We were discussing online proctoring services with one of our clients, and they said, “This is great! Because we often wonder the authenticity of the test. What if they cheated?”

That said, we think it is necessary online tests are proctored. There are so many ways test-takers can cheat using a different device or a friend prompting answers!

What is Online Exam Proctoring?

In Online Exam Proctoring or Online Video Test Proctoring, a candidate is monitored online during the test duration typically with the help of a webcam, mic, and access to the screen of the candidate.

To take an online proctored test from a remote location candidates need:

  1. A suitable device (Desktop PC/Laptop/Tablet/Mobile)
  2. An Internet connection with at least 256kbps speed
  3. A functional webcam and a mic
  4. In PC/Laptop, any of the modern browsers

There are three main types of proctoring:

1. Live Online Proctoring

In a live proctored test, a qualified proctor monitors the candidates, audio-video and screen share feeds in real time.

Typically, the proctoring service provider will have people sitting in a remote location who have been trained to ensure student authentication and prevent/red flag any form of cheating.

A proctor can monitor up to 16/32 candidates at a time depending on the provider. The advantage of this model is that it removes the location constraint of proctoring.

Disadvantages are that it still requires the exams to be scheduled and since there is equal human involvement as offline proctoring, it is not very scalable and is most expensive of all the types.

The test taker and proctor can be even thousands of miles apart. ProctorU is a leading provider in this model.

2. Recorded Proctoring

In this method, no proctor is monitoring the feed in real time. Instead, the audio-video and screen share feeds of the test candidates are recorded during the test.

A representative plays back these recordings in a fast-forwarded way (3X to 20X speed) and red-flags any suspicious activity through annotations.

Advantages are that it eliminates both schedule and location constraints. However, it still requires humans to do the review and hence it is not very scalable and is still expensive.

Software Secure or Remote Proctor Now follows this model.

3. Advanced Automated Proctoring

Automated proctoring is the most advanced form of proctoring. Here again, the audio-video and screen share feeds of the test candidates are recorded during the test.

But in addition to recording, the system also monitors the feeds for any suspicious activity using advanced video and audio analytics.

It ensures candidate focuses on test screen during the test; there is enough light in the room and checks for suspicious objects in video and background voice activity to red flag the test. It also uses face recognition to do student authentication.

Advantages are that it eliminates both schedule and location constraints. It also doesn’t require humans to do the review, and hence it is scalable and is more cost effective.

Talview Advanced Automated Online Remote Proctoring is one of the leading providers. Talview also provides the other two options as add-ons for additional security.

Additional checks are available to make online proctored exams secure:

  1. Limit candidate logins to specific IP addresses.
  2. Blocking of copy-paste options
  3. Freezing the screen of device blocking candidate from accessing other applications or switching windows

Can candidates cheat during a test which is proctored online?

There are blogs online which gives candidates tips to trick many proctoring systems. But as these blogs convey candidates will have to resort to extreme measures and need elaborate preparation to trick the video proctoring system since the complete audio-visual recordings are available for cross verification at any point in time.

The majority of candidates will rather fall in line than try to do all this. Proctors involved are well trained and experienced to detect any hints of malpractice like candidate eye movement and body language.

The process followed during online proctoring includes asking the candidate to record a video of the surroundings and test machine setup. The systems are becoming more and more intelligent making it extremely difficult to cheat.

Reena Ghosh has done a detailed review of cheating and countermeasures in this article. Arkansas Tech University has done a paper on candidate behavior during online proctored exams.

What do candidates think of Proctored Exams?

Candidates love convenience. Hence it is natural to think why should they take a day’s leave and travel all the way to a test center when they can do it at the convenience of their homes at a suitable time.

There aren’t many studies available at present which have analyzed candidate feedback from proctored assessments.

Remote Proctored Exams on Mobile

Can Proctored Tests happen on Mobile Devices?

Talview is the only player who currently supports video proctoring in its candidate mobile app. Nature of mobile devices with the front camera makes it as foolproof as web-based tests with minimal checks and processes in place.

What is the Future of Online Proctoring?

Securing Online Tests with Remote Proctoring - One Step Closer to Changing Online Degrees

Remote proctoring tools is going to become the mainstay for online courses. It might soon impact other types of assessments too. The current trends include:

  1. Enhancing the test taker’s authentication by the use of biometric inputs from devices like smartwatches and fitness monitors.
  1. Smartwatches and fitness monitors may also be employed to detect changes in pulse and temperature and send such data to proctoring software to serve as malpractice cues.
  1. Facial recognition is already used by Talview to avoid impersonation. Keyboard behavior analysis is also in use. In future, sound recognition and touchscreen behavior analysis might be utilized as additional checks.
  1. Head movement and position and illumination analysis are already in use by Talview for cheating. The tone of voice, facial expressions, etc. can be used in future.

How Will it Change the Attitude about e-Learning

With the online proctoring in place, open badges, certificates or diplomas need not be under any scrutiny. The certification is as good as any certificate received as a result of an on-premise test.

This will help a lot of professionals add certifications to their portfolio while they are working and also helps companies identify performers with a badge that can be authenticated without using too many resources. It’s a win-win.

*Part of this article appeared on Talview Blog.

Written By
Sanjoe Jose is the Chief Executive Officer at Talview and has been driving the vision and strategy since inception. He is also responsible for new initiatives and product strategy at Talview.Sanjoe is passionate about building technologies that help make hiring easy. He is currently working on a cutting-edge AI technology that can impact the world. He enjoys writing whenever he can and has penned several of them.
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