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Emerging Technology and the Future of Online Proctoring

April 8, 2020

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History tells us that times of crisis can lead to rapid societal and technological change. New ways to improve emergency medical transport were developed during the American Civil War. And following World War 1, we saw plastic surgery techniques advance and air traffic control being established.  

As a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic, organizations are having to quickly explore new tools for remote working, collaboration, learning, and assessment. For example, many organizations have already been in touch with the team here at PSI about implementing online proctored exams as an alternative to physical test centers during social distancing and self-isolation. What organizations learn and implement in the coming months is likely to shape the future of work and education forever.

As with many of the technologies for video calling and remote team collaboration, online proctoring is not new. The Association of Test Publishers (ATP) recently reported an increase in the use of online proctoring with video/sound recording and identity authentication from 11% in 2015 to 21% in 2018. And now there is an even greater imperative to use it.i

Much has changed in the last few months, weeks, and even days. What hasn’t changed when it comes to remote proctoring is the need to balance security needs with the candidate experience – all while staying within budget. This is the case whether you are a professional association, government agency, certifying body, awarding organization, education provider, or business.

So, here are our top emerging technology trends for enhanced security to help you achieve that balance and stay ahead of the competition.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is technology that allows a computer to behave and learn in a human-like way – and it’s already here. What’s more, in the US education sector alone the AI market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of nearly 50% during the period of 2018 to 2022.ii 

When it comes to online proctoring, AI is an emerging practice with the capability to:

    • Check-in test takers using facial and voice recognition.
    • Identify suspicious behaviors much the same as a human proctor, with the potential to do so more reliably and on a far greater scale.
    • Use audio detection to pick up background noise and match it with speech patterns to identify potential malpractice.
    • Indicate the reading or use of unauthorized materials through eye movement detection.
    • Detect additional objects, such as phones or people, entering the environment.

The examples above include some of the ways that AI can help to detect and flag potential malpractice to a human proctor. And increasingly, AI is more accurate than a human. As far back as 2015, researchers at The Chinese University of Hong Kong used an AI algorithm to achieve facial identification scores with an accuracy rate of 99%, compared to the 98% achieved by humans.iii

In time, technology, larger data sets, and user confidence will increase so that AI will be able to make autonomous judgments on the severity of a situation and then take appropriate independent action, such as ending or pausing an assessment.

2. Innovative Data Forensics

Online proctoring, in addition to other forms of high stakes testing, generates a magnitude of data that helps identify trends in the usage and completion of remote tests. Data forensics can detect fraudulent behavior using statistical trends and analytic techniques. This might include anomalous testing behaviors that indicate cheating, theft of intellectual property, or a breach of an exam. At PSI, we use data forensics to ensure the quality, security, and consistency of online proctoring, taking our extensive experience of running physical test centers and applying this in online proctoring  to ensure that test security is not compromised in the online environment.

It’s encouraging to see that many organizations are using data forensics as a tool to combat test fraud. The ATP found that in 2018, 50.8% of testing organizations used data forensics, with 58.14% of these organisations detecting test security breaches as a result. What’s more, 35.94% say that data forensics are one of the top three areas where their organization spends money to protect the security of assessments.iv

3. Digital Identity Management

A common question we receive from organizations interested in implementing online proctoring is: “How can we be sure that the person taking the exam is who they say they are, and not someone taking the test on their behalf?”

Digital Identity Management establishes, maintains, and guarantees one identity per individual by combining behavior, location, use of device, and other data, such as email address and credit card information. It’s a methodology that’s already used by online retailers and banks, and it can also be a valuable tool for authenticating test takers’ IDs.

While PSI already uses sophisticated techniques to guarantee the identity of test takers, we are constantly investigating technologies to further improve security. Other digital identifiers in development include biometric markers such as facial recognition, fingerprints, retinal scans, and keystroke analysis. The ATP reports that only 35.8% of organizations currently use biometrics, with only 13.95% using pre-test verification/authentication of test takers, including the use of biometrics to detect test fraud. So Digital Identity Management, and biometrics in particular, still have significant potential to improve test security in the future.

4. Enhanced Candidate Experience

While we can – and should – focus on improving test security, we must stay mindful of the candidate experience. And it’s vital that we also use technology to this end. Features like single sign-on access for assessments and integration that allows candidates to move seamlessly from an organization’s website to the assessment without being aware of the change all have a positive impact on candidate experience.

Convenience impacts the candidate experience, which is improved through online proctoring, since not only do candidates have more options when scheduling exams, they don’t need to factor commute time into their schedules to complete their exams.

Technological advancements in online proctoring mean that your assessments can be delivered remotely without sacrificing security or privacy. And by maximizing the potential of emerging technologies, our ability to detect test fraud is only going to improve so that you can schedule your exams to meet the needs of your candidates without compromising test integrity and security.

These four technological trends in online proctoring are already available. Download our free eBook to learn more about the different online proctoring options, the tests it can be used for,  these four trends, and the candidate experience. 


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[i] Security Survey Report, Association of Test Publishers, 2019.

[ii] AI Market in the US Education Sector, Research and Markets, 2018.

[iii] Lu, C. & Tang, X. Surpassing Human-Level Face Verification Performance on LFW with GaussianFace, Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 2015.

[iv] Security Survey Report, Association of Test Publishers, 2019.

 

Kerry Williams Kerry Williams is Vice President of eAssessment and joined PSI in May of 2018. Kerry is responsible for the revenue growth of the eAssessment division of PSI International. She has over 15 years of experience building and managing client facing teams in both UK and International markets, accelerating revenue growth through the development of strategic plans, building high performing sales teams, and driving operational efficiency. Kerry has worked in the assessment sector as a technology vendor since 2004 in the field of eAssessment, supporting companies with their international strategy and implementation activities and providing best practice guidance to awarding organizations and corporate certification clients.  

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