Since the global Covid pandemic starting in 2020, there has been a vast increase in the use of online exam proctoring. This has primarily been to maintain academic integrity in the face of increased remote study and work. But this isn’t a temporary trend, around the world we have seen remote study continue beyond the lockdown years, as part of a wider digital transformation. Institutions that use online exam proctoring are future-proofing for generations of students who demand remote learning and increasing student choice in the way they take exams.
However, there is a wide school of thought on this method of proctoring and the questions surrounding privacy and effectiveness. In many of these discussions, the framing of this is oriented towards preventing cheating and ‘catching cheaters’.
At Inspera, we see things differently. We’re not here to catch people out, we want to encourage flexible assessment with integrity and give academics the tools they need to make informed decisions, not create a ‘one-flag-and-you’re-guilty’ approach.
There are many benefits of online exam proctoring for test takers and institutions alike, but this is moot if we don’t accompany the transition with a discussion about what remote proctoring can be used for, where it is appropriate and a dialogue with test takers so that they are aware of what is monitored during a remotely proctored exam. Building from a place of trust rather than presumption drives buy-in from both educators and candidates.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: In the education sector there have been views circulating since the pandemic that remote exam proctoring is ‘legitimized spyware’. Labeled as an invasion of test takers’ privacy, reducing academic integrity and exacerbating existing inequalities in educational outcomes.
In France, this was even deliberated in court, with the judge giving one provider a suspension for privacy invasion. However, if used properly and with transparency, online exam proctoring can enable institutions and test takers to break down barriers to education, improve user experience and allow effective monitoring of test takers whilst maintaining privacy. Inspera Proctoring offers full transparency about how data is gathered and stored.
Can Proctored Exams Detect Cheating – Is This the Right Question to Pose?
Some corners of the internet operate on a guilty-until-proven-innocent position when it comes to cheating. While preventing the use of notes, collusion and plagiarism may be big issues for academia in order to protect integrity, it’s important to treat test takers with respect and not presume everyone’s reason for wanting to take their exams remotely is nefarious. Perhaps a more nuanced question would be ‘how can proctored exams help academics focus on academic integrity?’.
The implementation of proctoring is key. For instance, Inspera’s proctoring software offers a range of options so institutions can choose the ideal set up for each exam session. This means both live and recorded proctoring, with either in-house proctors or Inspera’s own. AI flags assist the reviewer to make decisions but do not make a decision for them.
Academic misconduct is subjective and depends on the context of the assessment and academic regulations. Institutions are best placed to answer their own question. The technology provides them with evidence to do so.
Institutions can be assured of the identity of a candidate by automated identity checks or a human review at the start of the exam, ensuring exam security.
We know that data security is of the highest importance, so you can read about how data is collected and handled in our support guide.
Benefits of Online Exam Proctoring for the Test Taker
There are many benefits of online exam proctoring for test takers, but the five main advantages are:
- Increased accessibility
- Reduced student anxiety
- Integrity culture
The ability to take an exam anywhere eliminates the need for travel to a specific test center and addresses the needs of those with disabilities or mobility challenges. Providing online exam proctoring to test takers enables people to overcome barriers to education, as seen during the pandemic lockdowns. It enables those who feel more comfortable taking an exam at home in familiar surroundings to do so.
Even greater flexibility can be achieved, where appropriate, by allowing exams to be taken ‘on-demand’ where non-concurrent sittings meet academic regulations.
We’re all aware that WiFi connections and internet speeds can be vulnerable in remote or economically disadvantaged areas. With Inspera Proctoring, exam monitoring can continue even if there’s an interruption in internet connectivity, keeping examination stress to a minimum and providing a standardized environment for all test takers.
Reduced Student Anxiety
Exams can be stressful for test takers. Inspera Proctoring is built with the student in mind to ensure a smooth and stress-free examination experience. Taking exams in a familiar environment, away from peers, can help reduce anxiety for test takers. At home, or a place of their choosing, they are in a comfortable and controlled setting, potentially leading to better performance.
Having confidence in your proctoring and knowing that it’s a tool for the academics making decisions around misconduct and plagiarism is vital for test takers. Whereas a false accusation without clear evidence would have an even more serious impact on a student’s mental health.
By implementing online proctored exams as standard, test takers receive clear guidelines and policies about academic integrity in this context. Providing education about the need for and consequences of dishonest behavior continues to promote a culture of academic integrity.
Proctored exams provide a standardized and controlled testing virtual environment for all test takers, helping to ensure consistency and familiarity between each exam. While test takers get the flexibility of choosing their comfortable environment, we ensure everything else is standardized.
Exams with proctoring software maintain the credibility of academic awards, as they show that the assessment process meets high standards of security and fairness.
Benefits of Exam Proctoring for the Institution
The Time for Class 2023 survey found that 59% of faculty were currently, or had previously used digital assessment tools. But only 28% stated they were currently using or had used digital proctoring tools. During the pandemic, many institutions were forced to turn exams that had been written as closed book, into open book exams with limited integrity measures to address the gap this created. Post pandemic, rather than requiring all of those exams to take place in person, online exam proctoring is a secure alternative.
The many benefits of online exam proctoring for institutions include:
- Cost efficiency
- Improved learning experience
- Maintaining integrity and standards
- Data security
Traditional exam proctoring often requires a dedicated space for exams. Online proctoring eliminates the need for these facilities, saving on operational costs and time spent on exam administration. This also means institutions can schedule exams more flexibly. And that exams can be processed more quickly and simultaneously, increasing the number of exams that can be conducted within a given timeframe.
Remote examinations made possible by proctoring allow institutions to provide assessments to test takers across the world, increasing their influence. And with different courses having varying candidate numbers, it’s important that online proctoring is easy to scale per exam. With Inspera Proctoring, this is made even easier by being able to select the option to use Inspera’s own proctors, with only 48 hours notice.
Improved Learning Experience
Online proctoring is not only efficient for test takers but also the institutions. Online exams have the potential to have a positive impact on student anxieties, student morale by providing more flexibility, and enhance their overall experience by offering study on their own terms.
In addition to this, test takers are already highly adept with the technology. They became quickly accustomed to online examination and proctoring during the pandemic lockdowns. In 2023, some British exam boards trialed online mock GCSEs and AS-Levels after seeing the benefits during the pandemic. Soon, those same students will be moving on to higher and further education, expecting the same digital standards.
Maintaining Integrity and Standards
It’s true that maintaining academic integrity has different challenges in an increasingly digital world. There are new ways to cheat: websites dedicated to providing outsourced submissions, real-time messaging between test takers plus the recent developments in generative AI. In many cases, the best way to address these will be with innovative forms of assessment that don’t include the strict conditions of closed-book exams.
But, where an exam remains the best assessment type, remote proctoring enables you to deliver it away from an exam hall while maintaining integrity and standards. Therefore using online exam proctoring as part of a wider integrity and assessment strategy,
Data Security in Exam Proctoring
A reliable proctoring service will provide you with full transparency about the data being used, where it is being used, why it is being stored and how it is being discarded after a test is over. This is vital to maintaining trust between institutions and the provider but also for test takers to know their data is safe and adheres to legal requirements and best practices in academia.
In Summary: Does Online Proctoring Work?
From the list above, we can all see the benefits of online exam proctoring, but there are also criticisms we’ve addressed. The two largest of these are privacy and vulnerability to cheating. Inspera has taken these two criticisms and built solutions into its proctoring product. Thus, creating a proctoring service that handles data safely and enhances exam security.
Inspera’s approach to proctoring remains the same: we’ve built a tool for academics, with robust validation, not a decision maker. Academic integrity and exam security should still lie in the hands of institutions, who can work with their students in the ongoing digital transformation, not against them.
Download our eBook – A Practical Guide to Digital and Online Assessment – to find out how to get started with your assessment strategy.
What is Online Exam Proctoring?
Online exam proctoring is the act of overseeing an exam or test via a digital service. The goal of online exam proctoring is to enable remote exams and remove barriers to education.
What Does Proctoring the Exam Mean?
“Proctoring the exam” describes the act of overseeing an exam or test. Also known as invigilating. People who proctor an exam are there to ensure exam conditions are met and to provide assistance where needed.
Is a Proctor an Invigilator?
Yes, proctors and invigilators are the same thing. The word ‘invigilator’ is more commonly used in the UK, whereas ‘proctor’ is used internationally.
Written by Jo BowdenDecember 19, 2023