Many of us will take an online test at some point in our lives without really thinking about it – driving theory, language tests, citizenship tests, or membership certification. This method of testing gives organisations the opportunity to measure, assess, and identify the skills and abilities of people seeking employment, license to practise, or certification easily and cost effectively.
Online proctoring – or eAssessment – isn’t new, but it is changing. The tools used are rapidly evolving as more tests are moved online for the convenience of candidates, reduction in costs of deployment, and increase in accessibility, particularly for those in remote locations.
At the same time, many of the risks of online testing have been significantly reduced with advances in test security, like data forensics. However, it is inevitable that as testing methods change with the introduction of new technology, so will the ways that people find to circumvent the rules.
The security of any test is vital to maintaining accurate outcomes, and perhaps most importantly, to retaining public trust that test results are fair, reliable, and valid. After all, a certificate or license is meaningless if it fails to demonstrate that the holder has the necessary skills. And in the case of driving or flying a plane, poor test security might even put public safety at risk. So it’s understandable that there are still concerns about security and the impact of technology on eAssessment.
In my last blog The Psychology of Test Fraud, I explored the reasons for malpractice, the different methods that test takers use, and some tried and tested tools to prevent fraud – from software and firewalls to data protection and secure content. And with the introduction of new technology, organisations should be even more confident that online testing can be conducted in a secure environment.
Advances in biometrics continue. Biometric data – information that relates to individual human features – is used every time we unlock a smartphone using facial recognition or log into an online bank account using a fingerprint. Today, healthcare organisations can use iris scanning to accurately identify and link patients to their records. But it goes further back than that. Biometric data in the form of automated fingerprint identification and DNA evidence has been used by police forces since the 1980s.
A test taker’s physical characteristics can now be used to confirm they are who they say they are. And because the patterns of a person’s face, iris, finger print, handwriting, or even key strokes are completely unique, biometrics and biometric data are an incredibly secure way to validate identity both during test registration and within the test session itself.
Read more: Four Measures that Improve Test Security
With developments in live Artificial Intelligence (AI) and HD camera technology, surveillance of a test taker, their desktop, and surroundings can be used to pick up anomalies in the test environment. This might be an unauthorised person entering the room or a candidate picking up a mobile phone. When combined with biometrics and desktop tracking in mobile testing kiosks, all of these tools deliver the best of both worlds: test centre levels of security with online proctoring levels of accessibility.
New technology isn’t only applicable to online testing. When there is a need – or preference – for tests to be conducted in a physical centre, new technology can also be used to increase on-premise security. For example, advanced data forensics are capable of picking up overperforming test centres or higher than average pass rates that can then be investigated further.
It’s encouraging to see that an increasing number of organisations recognise the importance of taking steps to prevent, detect and plan for test security incidents. The 2019 ATP Security Survey shows that 50% of organisations spend the largest part of their security budget on technology advancements.
In the same survey, when asked whether a security breach has been experienced within the last two years, the results are roughly the same as in 2015. This suggests that test security is working to detect an increase in breaches, which is the current trend throughout the industry.
Technology alone is never enough. A range and depth of human experience in test development must be combined with technological innovation to maximise the availability and accessibility of tests, while still maintaining test security.
It is possible to achieve secure, anywhere, anytime testing and a seamless candidate experience, whether tests are conducted in test centres, mobile testing kiosks, with BYOD and online proctoring, or using mobile, offline, or off-grid delivery.