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The Future of Online Proctoring: 3 Trends

November 18, 2019

Future of Online ProctoringThe future is bright for online proctoring. The number of online proctoring services options has more than doubled since 2012 and will only increase in the coming years as test takers and test owners become more comfortable with the technology and realize the benefits it provides. It’s imperative that credentialing organizations stay on top of the trends around online proctoring to keep up with the competition. In conjunction with the IT Certification Council, we've put together this list of top trends in online proctoring.

Artificial Intelligence

The implementation of artificial intelligence has been a major game changer in online proctoring in the last few years. AI is currently being utilized or piloted to assist with test taker check-in, aid in identifying suspicious behavior, and flag irregularities through data forensics. AI augments the online proctoring process by flagging suspicious behavior in a record and review session so a live proctor,  instructor, or test owner can review later. Some of the ways AI monitors test takers include:

  • Voice recognition – picks up subtle sounds in the environment, like whispering
  • Facial recognition – provides identity verification and ensures the same person sits for the entire exam, as well as monitoring for additional faces in the testing environment
  • Pattern recognition – detects patterns of test taker behaviors that may indicate cheating
  • Voice-to-text – transcribes verbal speech to text and provides searchable data that the system can index and use
  • Eye movement detection – detects patterns in eye movement that may indicate reading notes or viewing other materials that are not allowed
  • Object recognition – senses additional objects or people entering the environment

As more exams are monitored with AI and machine learning, the systems are becoming smarter. AI systems will continue to learn, and over time, will become smart enough to make judgments on the severity of their own findings.

A Further Improved Test-Taker Experience

A major area of continued focus is the test taker experience; a positive candidate experience increases your program’s marketability.

Newer technology is being introduced to assist with efficiency from the test taker’s perspective, making the process more self-service oriented. Enabling easier access to the remote proctoring experience via single sign-on can improve the candidate experience by allowing a smooth transition from a certifying organization's website to the scheduling platform. Branding the scheduling platform with an organization's colors and logo adds to this by maintaining a seamless process, look, and feel.

Program flexibility is important during the certification and maintenance processes as well. Test takers are at various stages of their career and have differing personal and professional priorities, so you should be sure that your program is flexible with convenient scheduling and strong support services.

Ensuring Security Through Data Forensics Methods

High-stakes exam programs must remain vigilant against common threats which typically include use of unauthorized materials, proxy test-taking, and content theft. Merely offering a remote proctoring option does not eliminate these threats, but it does provide distinct deterrents to each one. In a test center environment, a human greeter traditionally handles the securing of cell phones and other devices, oversees the emptying of pockets, and ensures that the test taker is only in possession of permissible items for the particular test being administered. A modified version of these procedures happens in remotely proctored sessions, but the proctor has a more limited view of the environment because they are viewing the testing environment through the test taker’s web camera. Considering these limitations, concerns have been raised regarding exam security. However, as online proctoring grows in the certification space, organizations are making the necessary improvements to exam security by using the latest technology to authenticate the identity of the test taker and monitor real-time exam conditions, as well as using a lock down browser. A lock down browser “locks down” the test taker’s workstation and prevents any access and communications to external resources. This system lock down also prevents test takers from copying and distributing test content. A certifying body can also use the recorded test session as proof of exam integrity, ensuring the certification program holds the expected value.

Innovative data forensic initiatives to detect and identify cheating and other fraudulent activity when it occurs should also be employed. Flagged activity can include item harvesting (an attempt to collect a large number of test questions for future distribution) and proxy testing (when the test is completed by someone other than the test taker).

Forensic analysis involves scientific tests to detect the occurrence of a criminal act. Locard’s principle on forensic evidence is summarized by the mantra, “Every contact leaves a trace.” When thinking about forensics, people might think of a TV police drama and physical evidence left at the scene of a crime. However, when considering it in the context of data forensics in online proctoring, we mean that people interact with tests and test questions in abnormal and fraudulent ways, likely leaving traces of their acts, which then appear as irregularities in their answer choices, score patterns, and response times.

Data forensics in the psychometric context employs statistical trends and analytic techniques to detect these traces of fraudulent behavior that may indicate cheating. It is a more effective way to identify anomalous testing behaviors, as statistics are sensitive to different patterns of interest. It’s relatively easy to interpret data with tables and graphs, and fewer assumptions can be made and fewer data is required for analysis. PSI’s data forensics approach is supported by thorough research and investigative evidence and is a flexible approach to mitigate cheating.

Along with these security measures, having an exam policy in place and communicating it early and often to your test takers is extremely helpful in deterring fraudulent or suspicious behavior. Your exam policy should clearly map out expectations, and just as importantly, the consequences in the event of exam misconduct. The quality of the test-taking policies that you have in place and how accessible those policies are to test takers will yield greater compliance overall. A solid, holistic exam policy is a variable that you can control and it is one of the best deterrents to security risk that a certification program can have. 

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Rory McCorkle Rory McCorkle is the Senior Vice President, Certification & Education Services at PSI Services LLC. He has extensive experience both managing and consulting for credentialing programs, specializing in the strategic organization of these programs, their design and development. During his career, Rory has worked with over 350 associations and IT credentialing organizations, including well-known licensure programs and globally renowned certifications. Rory received his PhD in Organizational Leadership from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, as well as his MBA from Drexel University’s College of Business.