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4 Takeaways From 2020 About Online Proctoring

May 5, 2021

At the start of the pandemic, the hope was that any interruption to daily routines would be temporary. But as most of us sit here from our home office locations and reflect on a year of video conferencing in our sweatpants, we recognize that there are elements of life that will never be quite the same as they were pre-pandemic.

Online Proctoring PicIn the education space, flexibility, hybrid learning, and innovative methods of assessment administration have taken the spotlight in a way previously unseen. The adoption of online proctoring by educators in the US and Europe, already well established before Covid-19, has accelerated substantially. In the US, online proctoring has stepped in to fill the gap, with widespread and unprecedented levels of adoption.

The question is “will this trend continue?” From a proctoring industry insider’s perspective, here are some takeaways from the past year that might help as you continue to use or adopt new proctoring options.

1. Communication is key

A move from classrooms and campuses to home schooling almost overnight was stressful for all involved. In order to get students comfortable with the logistics of remote testing, there are steps that you can take in advance.

Keys to addressing these issues are communication, familiarity, and process. Share as much information as often as you can about the online proctoring process, including walk-through videos or instructions with screenshots and videos. And then share it again. And maybe again. Provide assurances about students’ data security and privacy (more on this later) and be clear about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be used — if at all — and how it’s supposed to work. It will be wise to inform students if the proctoring is done by trained humans, AI, a combination, or by the instructor or school staff. Feedback tells us that students are more apprehensive about pure AI systems due to fear that the AI is going to mistakenly flag everything, creating a high level of stress.

Related: Overcome the Fear Factor with AI-Enabled Online Proctoring

If available, provide students the opportunity to take practice exams and become familiar with the new process and a what a proctored exam will look and feel like. Ensuring that you clearly communicate the resources available to familiarize them with the technology helps to ease anxiety and minimize any technical issues on exam day.

And don’t forget to communicate how a student can reach out to you or the proctoring service. With a process in place where students can provide notice if they do not have access to an appropriate test environment, alternative arrangements can be made in advance — whether it’s hardware, software, or physical location.

2. Privacy and data security are paramount

While you are overcommunicating with students on this new process, don’t forget to also drive home the focus on their data security and privacy. We live in an era where data is currency, so there must be appropriate arrangements aligned with regulations, such as the US’s Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act 1974 and the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018, in place to keep personal information secure. And, as per these regulations, this must be clearly communicated with students. Be specific and let the student know how any data or recordings will be stored, who has access to them, and for how long. Also, provide students with information on the vendor’s data security policies, any history of data breaches, and what type of data the vendor has access to.

In addition, a secure lockdown browser is a tried and tested method of not only preventing exam misconduct, but also protecting students. A lockdown browser prevents students from copying, pasting, and accessing other applications during an exam, but does so in an unobtrusive way, since the online proctor doesn’t need full remote access to their computer. When combined with the single sign-on functionality that comes when online proctoring integrates seamlessly with your Learning Management System (LMS), these tools significantly reduce the risk of exposing personal information. Additional tools in place include an Application Programming Interface (API) and Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) that also safeguard against personal data loss. In an increasingly digital world, you can’t put a price on that piece of mind.

3. Flexibility is preferred, and kind of expected

In 2020, the PSI team delivered 240% more online proctored exams than in 2019. Pre-Covid, 10-15% of candidates opted for online proctoring over in-person testing, but since the onset of the pandemic over 70% now choose to take their tests remotely. 

The move to secure online exams is made easier still as the technology required is already well established in certification and workplace testing as well as for academic exams.

We have learned a lot from this extraordinary shift, and there are some considerations to take into account as you decide when and why online proctoring might be necessary. Do you need to proctor all weekly quizzes and assignments, adding anxiety and stress to the student as well as increased cost? Or should you reserve the use of proctoring to just the higher-stakes assessments?

When life as we know it resumes, students will not magically forget about the alternate options that were provided to them during the pandemic for testing. The level of convenience that comes with online proctoring will always be attractive to a at least some of your students. Luckily, you can be confident in your decision to continue to offer online proctoring as an option that is not only backed by science, but appreciated by those looking to have the convenience to access their high-stakes exam remotely.

4. Online proctoring generates positive testing experience

In an increasingly competitive and vocal online environment, adopting the latest technology to ensure exam security is not enough; we must provide a positive student experience. A significant factor to a positive or negative student experience is the level of added anxiety and the student’s ability to focus solely on the exam, not on the technology used. Even back in 2017, our research showed, with best practice in place, there was little difference between how candidates rated their experience whether an exam was proctored onsite or online. 

Granted, there are always going to be students who feel it’s unnecessary, unfair, and frankly creepy. But, in addition the consistent candidate experience ratings, we also found that test condition ratings and exam results had nearly no correlation, meaning that how the exam was administered had no impact on overall performance. Even after Covid-19 forced a quick shift to online testing, 84% of users in 2020 rated the online proctoring platform as easy to use. This positive student experience combined with sound psychometric data shows online proctoring as a viable testing method of the future.

Download now: Online Proctoring in Higher Education Infographic

Online Proctoring is Here to Stay

The view that in-person testing is the only secure and preferred option for academic exams is shifting. And with the right online proctoring, and the proper communication and technology in place, you don’t need to choose between student experience and exam security. Remember to always keep your students at the heart of the process as your online proctoring process evolves.

tipsheet download 8 ways to create a student centered online proctoring program

Mark Musacchio Mark Musacchio is Senior Director of Sales, PSI Education. For the past eight years, Mark has worked with countless educators in higher education and certification organizations to help them with their assessment challenges. With a focus on customer experience, he works closely with senior leadership and account management to ensure quality and excellence throughout the customer lifecycle.