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How to balance security and student experience with online proctoring

June 22, 2022

iStock-1285315282An academic qualification means nothing without trust. There must be trust in the integrity of the course and the reputation of the school, college or university. As well as trust that any exams or tests used to validate learning are reliable and fair. Equally, students must trust an educational institution has their best interests at heart – offering an enjoyable and immersive educational experience, while always protecting student privacy and data security. 

Historically, efforts by some institutions to safeguard the security of remote testing have led to an imbalance. In some cases, the student experience has suffered from technologies such as automated proctoring that relies on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and unnecessary browser extensions. As well as lack of time and effort to analyze AI generated flags, and subscription services that lead to the overuse and lack of accountability of online proctoring.  

The public backlash from some students against these forms of online proctoring has been strong and often on-point. And many more students have been left feeling anxious about their privacy, data security and fear of unfounded accusations that affect test outcomes. You don’t have to search for long to find a plethora of sobering online articles with allegations around discrimination, false accusations of cheating (as a result of AI), and even security breaches. The good news is that with a blend of smartly designed technology and a team of experts, online proctoring can offer better assurance of security with a consistent high-quality experience for test takers. 

Choose the best option 

The first step to delivering an exceptional student experience with online proctoring is to choose the right option for your courses and programs. Every educational institution, academic program, department and individual instructor has different needs when it comes to exam security, acceptable levels of risk, student experience and budget. When these needs have been assessed there remain a few useful options: 

  1. Live Online Proctoring
  2. Record & Review Online Proctoring
  3. Secure un-proctored exams 

These options are highly secure methods of test delivery that also offer the most flexibility and convenience for students. Online proctoring allows students to take a test or exam at a time and place of their choosing. This means they can more easily fit testing into their busy schedules, while saving unnecessary travel time and expense.  

The main difference between live and record & review online proctoring occurs when a proctor witnesses a suspicious incident. During a live session the proctor can intervene when they notice a potential rule violation. During a record & review session the proctor will raise a flag. Whether intervention or detection of misconduct is preferred or required is often the determining factor when deciding which online proctoring solution to select.  

 We’ve observed an overuse of online proctoring over the past few years. In some cases, instructors are proctoring everything, including small tests and quizzes that perhaps don’t necessitate the added security of online proctoring. This is often spurred by subscription models of AI based services that offer unlimited packages. If it doesn’t cost any extra, then why not use it all the time?  

 This might not be the best approach, given the fact students likely feel the unintended perception they aren’t trusted. It adds a layer of complexity and unnecessary test anxiety that can turn what should have been a positive experience to a negative experience. Could you use alternative assessment models? Is a secure exam with just a lockdown browser sufficient? 

When to Use – and When Not to Use – Online Proctoring in Education. 

Offer a seamless journey 

A seamless journey is vital to delivering an exceptional educational testing experience for your students. This starts with easy and simple test booking and access. And it extends to what happens after their test is complete. A combination of technology, efficient processes and human expertise all combine to make the testing journey as frictionless as possible.  

Here are just a few examples of ways to improve your student experience: 

  • Single sign on (SSO) through your institution’s Learning Management System (LMS) with no need to create separate accounts, re-enter personal information or log-in again. 
  • Lockdown browser easy to download and uninstall in seconds, with no need for browser extensions on your day-to-day browser or remote access. 
  • No inconvenient hold or wait times with self-service check-in and fast launch times to start a test or exam. 
  • Professionally trained and empathetic online proctors, check-in specialists and always available support personnel. 

Secure Online Proctoring for Education: The Threat of Remote Access. 

Communicate, communicate and… communicate 

Anxiety makes test day challenging for many students – with or without online proctoring. And whether testing is in-person in an exam hall or test center, or remotely with online proctoring in the comfort of their own home. In the former scenario, many students will visit the test site in advance to become familiar with the journey, map out their route and be sure of how long it will take. With online proctoring, it’s important to let students know equally important steps they should take to be fully prepared and minimize any test day anxiety. 

Good communication is essential with online proctoring, as some students may still be unfamiliar with the technology and processes involved. Communicate regularly, frequently and using different channels to ensure important messages are received and understood. Anticipate the questions and provide the answers before they are asked. This has the added benefit of preventing issues for your faculty and staff on test day. 

Examples of the most important information to share include: 

  • Encourage practice exams to give students opportunities to get first-hand experience with the steps and process. Just like a test drive, they can learn the platform and know what to expect on exam day. 
  • Links to system compatibility checks to ensure the device a student plans to use will support online proctoring. 
  • Clear testing rules such as resources and breaks allowed, and how long before or after a scheduled time it’s possible to start a test. 
  • Student support services should they have a problem. Support should be 24/7 and available in a variety of formats including chat, email and telephone. 
  • Let students know how you’ll address potential misconduct by sharing how the system works, what is flagged and how. Students are very aware that AI based services often create false positive flags and are constantly worried a subtle movement or noise will create a flag. This won’t occur with a human-based service. 

Are You Asking the Right Questions Before Implementing Online Proctoring? 

Benefits for education 

Your institution’s reputation and your students will benefit from an excellent testing experience. And rigorous security will ensure every student gets the result they deserve, protecting the integrity of the test and the qualification – to everyone’s benefit.  

Education turns dreams into reality. But that reality means little if it’s not based on trust. Just as you pack passion into inspiring, educating and empowering your students, we put our heads, hearts and the best technology into making every test, exam and assessment as secure and reliable as possible. While keeping your student experience a top priority.

For more information about online proctoring options and further tools and tips to deliver an exceptional student experience download our guide: How to drive student satisfaction with online proctoring. 

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Mark Musacchio Mark Musacchio is Senior Director of Sales, PSI Education. For the past twelve 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.