Online exams - How to relieve test taker concerns

2020 has necessitated an unexpected change in the way assessments are conducted for all certification providers. It is important to reassure candidates that this underlying shift is about to be a backbone of distant education in the future to the benefit of everyone involved.

Why proctoring?

Whether it's face-to-face or online, a proctor's role is to ensure that a test-taker is who they say they are and the rules applicable for the exam are followed. Study shows that in online tests, much the same as in the classroom, instances of misconduct increase considerably if an exam is not proctored.

Online proctoring can take place on most devices with an internet connection, microphone and camera. A student’s identity will be verified by means of a webcam, the same way as in an actual test centre. Similarly, an online proctor will observe the test taker's environment via their webcam - just like an onsite invigilator would - to check for the use of unauthorized devices, another person detected, or other suspicious objects or activities that may suggest malpractice on the student's end.

Candidate concerns

Viewed as an unforeseen change during what is already a stressful time, online proctoring seems to add on to people anxiety, so any concerns need to be addressed by providing clear answers based on best practice.

Personal privacy

Test takers might be worried about data collection and storing and who can access their data. It is important to make clear to them that the aim isn’t to be intrusive, but to examine as closely as possible the experience and achieve security and academic integrity by keeping personal information to a minimum.

Test scores

Another source of worry for candidates might be to what extent the decision-making around the validity of the exams lies in the hands of the institution. Will an online proctor have the power to make a decision that can impact their future? The answer should always be no. Proctors and the technology used to assist them are only responsible for flagging suspicious behaviour to the test organizer, who will ultimately decide on the outcome.

For example, with so many exams now being conducted from home, it would be common if another person entered the room during an exam and exchanged a small but irrelevant to the test conversation, which clearly does not indicate cheating. However, as the rules have it and for the sake of consistency, a yellow flag (“requires attention”) should be allocated to that incident and then reported to the test administrator. Simply put, violations as such are always expected and flagging them comes with proctors' responsibilities, but they are always to be resolved by the administrator.

Good communication

Let’s be honest. Examination means stress, and being able to reach out to somebody while you are taking a test and ask a simple but vital for that moment question sounds very relieving. Good communication can also be achieved in online exams, by providing test takers with accurate information and the opportunity to raise questions well in advance.

Test administrators are always advised to send the invitation for an exam a week before the session and give a fair amount of time to the candidate to complete their system check. A minimum equipment set-up is the only requirement aiming for avoiding technical difficulties during an exam while technical support is also available during that time.

Last but not least, to make a step further in the effort to alleviate student anxiety, test organizers will not, more often than not, hesitate to initiate webinars and forums, identify a support contact within the institution or even take practice exams in the new testing environment. 

ProctorExam solution

ProctorExam's aim has been to create as many options for online proctoring as possible, increase flexibility and let educational institutions make their own proctor policies based on their needs.

Among those options are the record-and-review online proctoring, where disruption for students during the exam is minimized and a remote invigilator will review the recording afterwards to flag and report malpractice.

Alternatively, live online proctoring is the most secure method with the proctor using the webcam to spot suspicious behaviour in real time and give the examinee a warning if necessary.

A positive student experience 

With two million exams conducted online by ProctorExam since the beginning of this crisis, recent history shows that online proctoring, when implemented to the right standards, is a tool well leveraged by most learning organizations who wish to provide an exam experience not much different to the previous one.

Any change or new technology can cause concern when it is being used for the first time, while exams themselves are not the happiest of experiences. By drawing the line where human limits are in regard to personal privacy and security, online proctoring is about to continue providing a valuable service that makes education accessible to everyone and from everywhere.