The human factor in online proctoring was preserved with ProctorExam

COVID-19 was a big challenge for everyone, including parties that needed to conduct exams in the K12 industry, the traditional education sector and the business world at large. Same goes for the European Board of Ophthalmology (EBO). Their exam is usually held in Paris, for nearly 700 candidates. There are two parts: an MCQ and a “viva voce” (interview-based exam) where the candidate is interviewed by two examiners at each of four stations. 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of the institution, which turned out to be hijacked by the global pandemic. Only a small exam (with some examiners working remotely) in Switzerland could be held.

When it was clear the pandemic would threaten the 2021 exam, the EBO decided they needed to host a completely digital exam to ensure its continuity. This meant they needed to find a professional and trustworthy partner to shift from onsite exams to fully online. The tests and candidates needed to be managed professionally with a proper invigilation tool to reduce the risk of cheating and to secure the exam integrity. This goes to the heart of the exam’s quality and reputation, which is important for the EBO, for candidates, future employers (hospitals and health systems) and, ultimately, for future patients.

Brendan Strong, project manager for scoring and standard setting at the EBO, explains: “Keeping the human factor in online proctoring is why we chose ProctorExam.”  

Concentrate on performance

Before the exam, ProctorExam offered candidates the opportunity to pre-test the digital set up, so they could see how the platform worked. They could see for themselves that the technical set up wasn’t scary at all. The system check made clear to test takers what was expected from them. It allowed them to concentrate on performing within the context of their exam and not worry about possible technical difficulties.

Interact with humans 

During the exam, test takers were able to interact with human proctors via an online chat, in case they needed technical support, or to clarify an institute instruction with the proctor.

A communication channel was available between the two to support the first whenever needed. Test takers would not feel helpless or disaffected, which could impair their test performance and increase anxiety.  

Humans make the decisions

Proctors watched candidates taking the exam and provided notes after the exam, flagging any perceived contraventions of the rules. The notes were descriptive, which meant the EBO could prioritize exams for review and identify important issues to check upon. There were three categories: red (definite problem), yellow (potential problem) and green (no problems). These were based on rules for the exam, defined by the EBO.

A key benefit of human proctors is their descriptive notes, which told reviewers what the candidate did -or did not do- to warrant a review. Hyperlinks allow reviewers to jump directly to the point in the video that the note describes. The video speed can be altered (faster or slower) to help reviewers in their decision making. So, this technology-supported invigilation can be even more powerful than onsite exams.  
“Human proctoring helped a lot in terms of reassurance, productivity and efficiency. Test takers understood that they weren't alone or helpless. They knew that they were being monitored. Generally speaking, this makes test takers less likely to cheat. We were confident that candidates could be assisted if necessary during the two-hour test in the morning and the one-hour test in the afternoon.”
– Brendan Strong, project manager at the EBO

Human consult 

Any organizational change is driven by the people within it. Confidence in moving from one way of doing things to another is paramount to a successful change. The EBO had experience and expertise of accommodating nearly 700 people in a live exam. But how could this translate to an online exam?

ProctorExam understood the EBO’s needs from the beginning, and took them by the hand throughout the entire process. In their guidance, EBO found great confidence in ProctorExam: it was clear the online proctoring process had been carefully thought out and planned. ProctorExam could explain the candidate journey to the EBO in great detail, and the EBO could then explain it to their candidates: the whole process meant that all parties were finally comfortable with how online proctoring works.

In a live exam setting, the rules are contextual and often defined by common sense. Setting up rules for an online exam was new to the EBO, who did not know how specific the guidelines needed to be. ProctorExam was there to provide best practice advice, such as what a reasonable break time duration would be, or how to check the test takers’ surrounding environment. 
“Thanks to ProctorExam’s consideration of the human aspect of the examination, our exam quality was not compromised. For me, it demonstrates a new culture, where new online and digital tools are helping us more and more in our real lives. Online proctoring has allowed the EBO exams to be held fully online. This also means that the examination becomes available to people who have not previously been able to afford travel, accommodation or the time to sit the traditionally onsite exam in Paris. If the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have taught us anything, is that we cannot be certain about the future. Similarly, we cannot just stop and wait until the pandemic is over – humans don’t live that way. All in all, this is a great collaboration with ProctorExam.”
– Brendan Strong, project manager at the EBO