In the world of Higher Education, online proctoring has become more and more prevalent – the number of online proctoring services options has more than doubled since 2012. As students enroll in more online courses and programs, school’s faculty, staff and administrators are seeing the convenience online proctoring provides for not only themselves, but for students as well. Online proctoring, when done properly, can add efficiencies for faculty, staff, and administration, increase accessibility, minimize costs, and provide a consistent testing experience for all students. Furthermore, students are being more selective of the programs they choose and will look for the right fit for their life, which may mean they’ll avoid institution’s programs that require they come in to campus just for proctored exams. So, what should you consider when choosing an online proctoring provider?
How is data secured?
Your online proctoring solution should be able to integrate with your LMS, giving your test takers a seamless experience whether the online exam is proctored live in real-time or through a more automated recorded exam that will be reviewed by a proctor or the instructor later. In any scenario, we all agree this can make students a little uncomfortable with the idea of being watched in their personal or private space. We all hear the “big brother” comments. Security at this point should be of upmost importance to your proctoring provider – of both the test data and more importantly of the student’s personal information. For example, at PSI we use a secure, lockdown browser technology which means the proctor has no direct control or access to a student’s computer or anything on it. This assures student data privacy and eliminates real and perceived liability issues. Once the student is logged in and is taking the exam, the proctor can watch and note or intervene on and correct any suspicious behavior and report to the institution as necessary. Having a dedicated compliance department and officer is critical to understand the changing landscape of data security and the regional, national, and international data security policies and regulations.
How is identity confirmed?
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 provides some simple guidelines for ensuring the student who registers in a distance education course is the same student who participates in and completes the course and receives credit. Many feel these guidelines are in need of updating and modernizing. Most accreditors seem to be saying “do better” as well. Oftentimes, in traditional or residential testing environments, like our test centers for example, students must present a government-issued photo ID card (which exceeds the HEOA minimum requirement). Remote Proctoring incorporates this model as well. Combine the student’s use of their secure login username and password, with checking a photo ID card and you’re beyond compliance with accreditors and HEOA. Some online proctoring vendors are upping the ante by adding smart technology like biometrics, as well as incorporating mobile apps to modernize identity verification and provide process efficiencies.
What if test-takers have questions or technical difficulties?
Taking a test is stressful enough – compounded with introducing a new technology for online proctoring, it’s important that the test taking experience for them is free from added stress from technical difficulties or unnecessarily long or complex processes just to take an exam. To set students up for success, test takers need to have 24-hour direct access to technical support where they can either call, chat, or email questions directly to a technical specialist and get help as quickly as possible. In a live online proctored exam session, the capability should be there for a student to communicate directly with their online proctor via chat. Providing good end user resources and knowledge bases can help, as well as offering opportunities to practice the proctoring process in a non-graded and no-cost scenario. This can help to teach students how to do it and alleviate some of the anxiety. Can you work with your vendor to create custom content like video tutorials, how-to guides, FAQs, or best practices?
How do we ensure exam integrity?
At the end of the day, it’s a fine line to balance – the right combination of security versus convenience. Too far in one direction opens up questions about why you’re doing this. Too stringent and overly complex might lead students to feel like you don’t trust them, and too loose and doing the bare minimum says you’re just checking the box. As mentioned above, the use of a secure, lockdown browser is one of the best ways to ensure exam integrity without being too invasive. Secure browsers have the functionality to prevent students from using their computers to cheat or distribute exam questions. Security features block access to other browsers and prevent users from copying, pasting, taking screen captures, running virtual machines or remote desktops, using instant messaging programs, accessing other applications, or accessing other websites. But they should also be configurable to allow certain programs during an exam if the instructor prefers. If you teach statistics, do you always want to block Excel or SAS?
It's also important to make sure your provider’s secure browser is compatible with all systems, including PC and MAC.
If you prefer live remote proctoring, do you need to make every student test simultaneously because you’re afraid some students could remember some questions and talk to class-mates? Or would it be better to allow a more flexible window for testing to accommodate students who might prefer or do better late at night? Do you only want to be notified if one of your students may be cheating? If so, you should probably opt for an on-demand/recorded proctoring if you don’t really care if you stop a student in the act.
Making the best decision for your institution when choosing your online proctoring provider is important – hopefully this list of questions will help you along the way.