There are four main functions a remote proctoring system addresses:
- To verify it is the intended student completing the test and not someone else.
- To ensure the student only uses permitted materials during the exam (e.g. does not access notes or the textbook during a closed-book exam).
- To ensure the student completes the exam on their own, without assistance from others (including both others they know as well as through online services such as Chegg).
- To ensure the exam materials remain secure, and are not duplicated or shared (this is especially important if different students write the exam at different times, perhaps according to time zone)
Before summarizing remote proctoring tools and options, it is important to recognize that no tool is perfect. There are ways that individuals intent of committing misconduct can defeat any system. As some individuals exploit a vulnerability in a particular tool, the tool developers address that weakness, then the individuals identify new and more creative ways to cheat, and the misconduct arms race continues.
Importantly, each remote proctoring approach has costs, both actual and in terms of impacts on students and effort required. As remote proctoring is unfamiliar to most students, it can create feelings of anxiousness during an exam as they may feel they are being watched more closely than normal. In addition, these tools can give the perception that the instructor does not trust students to behave ethically (although, curiously, you don’t hear of students questioning why we stay in the classroom to invigilate a written exam). In addition, remote proctoring almost always requires the student use a webcam, and often a microphone as well, and it requires that they have a reasonably fast and stable internet connection. It is ideal if students have a quiet, private space where they can complete their exam. Not all students will have all of these things, which will require finding solutions to support and accommodate those students. There is a lack of information in terms of the propensity for automated remote proctoring tools to falsely identify (or miss) behaviours as suspicious based on factors such as skin colour, ethnicity, headdress, glasses, and so on. Finally, there are privacy concerns as the use of remote proctoring gives others visual and audio access inside students’ homes in ways that would otherwise not occur.
Simple video monitoring
Using existing video chat tools such as Zoom, MS Teams, Skype, etc., instructors have students complete their exam in view of their webcam. This is likely only suitable for pen-and-paper exams as most webcams are integrated within a device (and cannot show the screen). A human invigilator watches multiple screens with students assigned to breakout rooms. UBC SKYLIGHT has a very detailed guide on proctoring using Zoom.
- Essentially no addition up-front cost for a proctoring system
- Of the options, this may be the most familiar to students (and therefore the most comfortable)
- In larger classes, a large team of invigilators will be required watch all students simultaneously, even with multiple students on an invigilator's screen. (For reference, live proctoring services monitor 16-32 students at a time, which suggests a 150-student course would require at least 5-10 invigilators, and likely more given that this will likely be a new experience for them too.)
- This is the least secure option as it lacks most of the other checks and features with the other specialized systems (for example, locking the browser on a computer, scanning for suspicious noises, tracking eye movements, etc.)
- All students still require webcams
- Ensure any system used satisfies all applicable privacy protection requirements for your jurisdiction; there may be restrictions at the institution level regarding the use of various tools, the ability to record the session, and so on
- Consider how students will identify themselves on their video (how will the invigilators know who is who, and whether the person in the video is actually who they claim to be?); options may vary by institution, but consider that you might need to take a student to a separate (private) breakout room before asking that they show their personal ID
- Consult with your institution regarding possible recording of the exam session, as this may not be permitted. If you are permitted to record sessions and wish to do so, you will need a plan in terms of where those recordings will be stored, how they will be encrypted and secured, who will have access and for how long, how they will be securely deleted, and more. Also consider how you will inform students of all of this information.
- Consider how you will manage cases where a students video is disrupted (they may have an unstable internet connection, or some individuals could even intentionally turn off their webcam)
- Consider how you will manage technical support issues (e.g. a student or invigilator cannot connect during the exam); clearly communicate this to all parties well in advance of the exam
- Here is an example set of instructions to accompany exams invigilated by Zoom, prepared by UBC Skylight.
This is an invigilated exam. You must turn on your camera and leave it on throughout the examination. You will be asked to hold up your student card for identification purposes, and an invigilator may also ask you to share your screen at any point during the exam.
Your privacy is important to us. The camera feed will not be recorded. If you have any questions about how your privacy is protected while using Zoom, please consult with your instructor.
Paid live proctoring services such as ProctorU Live and Examity Live use a human to verify the identity of the test taker before providing access to the examination. Basic options then use AI (see next section) to invigilate the examination and to intervene if suspicious behaviour is detected, and premium options have live proctors to oversee the entire test session.
- The most rigorous and secure remote proctoring option of those considered here
- Sessions (even with AI) are recorded
- Live proctors are able to provide some technical support, if needed
- These systems can be expensive for the institution (roughly $10-16 per exam for the basic services, and $35 or more for premium)
- The live proctors are often located outside of North America, and privacy protection requirements may not be met
- Some students report live proctors not following exam instructions or possessing poor language skills
- Ensure any system used meets applicable privacy protection requirements
Many automated online proctoring systems make use of AI to monitor students during an exam and automatically detect and report suspicious behaviour. Examity, ProctorU, Proctor Track, Proctorio, and many other services exist. Most services include options to verify a student's identity, to record webcam, audio through a microphone, and the computer screen, to control or limit access to programs and the internet on a computer, and so on. Students can be requested to do a room scan (i.e., sweep the room with their webcam) at random or if suspicious behaviours are noted. These services are well suited to exams completed online using the quiz tool in an LMS, but can also be adapted for use with pen-and-paper exams where students later scan and upload their work.
- Dedicated proctoring systems that provide broad detection of misconduct (e.g. student consistently looking off-screen,
- Sessions are recorded (usually the webcam and the screen)
- After the exam, instructors are given a report of suspicious behaviours to investigate (often by highlighting specific incidents to review in a video timeline)
- Systems often provide a detailed report at the end, including the quality of the student's internet connection, video quality, hardware issues (e.g. not enough storage space), and so on.
- There is a cost to the institution
- Some systems only work with certain browsers (e.g. Proctorio currently only works with Google Chrome, which can be problematic for students in China, for example)
- Create a practice exam, not for marks but using the full features of the system as you plan for the actual exam, for students (and you) to test out the system, work out kinks, and to become more familiar with it. This is very important to help lower student anxiousness.
For more information, consider these resources:
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