Remote proctoring tips and suggestions

Online proctoring represents a shift for both students and teachers.  The following tips and suggestions are meant to highlight some of the important considerations (and some possible responses you might take).

Protecting Student Privacy

Any proctoring solution must respect student privacy.

  • Verify that any proctoring solution you are considering complies with privacy protection regulations for your institution.  Note that privacy protection regulations can vary by institution, even within the same jurisdiction.  In addition, some institutions may have implemented their own additional controls, safeguards, or restrictions to make an otherwise unacceptable solution conform to privacy protection requirements.  (In other words, just because someone else is using a tool does not mean you can necessarily use it in a similar context.)
  • Consider communicating details of your proctoring solution to students so they are informed of what data and personal information is collected, how it is collected, and how and where it is stored.  You might also address some concerns by confirming that your proctoring solution complies with applicable privacy protection regulations.
  • Make sure students know who has access to view the information recorded by the proctoring system, and under what conditions they would view it.

Student Discomfort and Anxiousness with Remote Proctoring

Many students may naturally feel more anxious or uncomfortable being “watched” by a remote proctoring system.

  • Acknowledge student apprehension and recognize that this is a new experience for most students.  (If students had only ever used remote proctoring, they would probably also feel anxious about writing an exam in-person in a room with a hundred or more other students too.)
  • Explain to students the reasons for remote proctoring is to increase fairness for everyone.  (In our course surveys, by roughly equal proportions, most students reported both elevated anxiousness with remote proctoring and increased confidence that the exam was more fair.)
  • Recognize that this is a new experience for many students, and discomfort and anxiousness will impact students differently.  Providing opportunities for students to become familiar with the system (next point) helps, as do flexible grading policies such as taking the best 5 of 6 quizzes or shifting weight between course elements based on circumstances.
  • Provide opportunities for students (and you) to test out the proctoring system in low-stakes conditions well before an exam.  Consider using a practice exam with similar question formats to the actual exam but not worth marks, and with the proctoring system running with the same settings as for the actual exam.  Better yet, consider building up from a practice quiz (not for marks), to a low-stakes quiz or series of quizzes (for marks), to a midterm and/or final exam.  For automatic proctoring systems, practice quizzes can be easily set up so students can attempt them as many times as they wish, but for systems using live proctors this may not be feasible.  You will also need to consider if there is a cost per exam event in determining the number of practice events and low-stakes quizzes you use the system with.

Communicating the Right Message

By using a remote proctoring system you do not want to unintentionally suggest that you do not trust students to act with integrity.  This is a delicate balance in several respects.

  • First, on any given assessment, the majority of students behave honestly and with integrity; however, the literature convincingly shows this proportion is not 100%.
  • Second, referring to the material on the fraud triangle, you are trying to balance minimizing opportunity for misconduct (i.e., create barriers to misconduct) without inadvertently increasing rationalization (i.e., suggesting the culture is such that “everyone is cheating”).
  • For an interesting perspective on this, consider if you have ever had to explain to students why live invigilators are present during an in-person exam.  Should expectations for oversight be different for online exams?

Student (and Faculty) Unease with Privacy

Many can find the use of remote proctoring systems intrusive.

  • For students uncomfortable with revealing their home and personal life on video, they may have options to write an exam in another location (a library, a university, an amenity room if they live in a strata building or complex); ensure they have stable internet.
  • For students working from home, encourage them to communicate with family members, partner, and/or roommates about the exam and the need for privacy during the exam time.
  • If a student does not feel comfortable showing the inside of their living/working space, for the duration of the exam they could consider reorienting their workspace to place a blank wall behind them.
  • Consider carefully the costs and benefits of the use of proctoring settings that require full video sweeps of a student’s workspace.

Student Concerns with Being Falsely Accused of Misconduct

With automatic proctoring solutions, a relatively common student concern raised by new users is that some behaviour on their part will trigger the AI system into charging them with misconduct.

  • It is good to remind students the automatic proctoring systems only collect and perform basic processing of information; they do not make decisions.  Specifically, if the system identifies some behavior as suspicious, that only alerts the course instructor to that behavior and the instructor then reviews and analyzes it.  Strong suspicion of online misconduct is handled just like in an in-person situation; an investigation is initiated and the student is given an opportunity to learn about the evidence and to respond to it.  Importantly, the remote proctoring system does not replace human judgement in investigating and determining academic misconduct.


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