COO of uExamS, a worldwide provider of test and training support solutions.
Covid-19 and its resulting isolation have forced the world into newfound remote work, education and training environments, creating an unprecedented upsurge in the use of remote proctoring services. Schools and other higher education institutions are forced to move their classes online in order to facilitate remote learning. Students themselves are increasingly enrolling in online classes and opting for courses that offer hybrid programs.
Even still, the need to maintain the integrity of various professions and deliver professional certification and licensure exams has not changed. On account of this drift to remote proctoring, the global Online Proctoring Services for Higher Education market size is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.3% between 2021 and 2025.
Remote Proctoring: A Reawakened Need
While in-person proctoring has taken a backseat, online proctors are here to stay. And they are incredibly important. Studies show that unproctored remote test takers, just like test-takers in an unsupervised in-person classroom or testing center, are much more likely to engage in prohibited activities or other forms of cheating. A proctor enables a secure test-taking environment and prevents identity fraud and other offenses.
Proctoring can take place on most devices, the requirements being an internet connection, a microphone and a camera to verify the student’s identity. An online proctor, assigned to a specific test taker, observes the test taker’s environment to scan for prohibited devices or objects and to report possible collusion with another person.
Security Challenges In Remote Assessment
Although necessary to maintain integrity and protect educational institutions’ intellectual property, remote proctoring services have become a goldmine for hackers and cybercriminals, exasperating students, teachers and testing institutions. Other widely used proctoring services allegedly collect a host of personal details from students and sell them to third parties. Likewise, the software can be substandard, incapable of detecting and mitigating content theft.
Moreover, the proctors themselves can potentially violate student privacy by using their position of power to install malware on the test taker’s device, committing identity theft. In addition, proctors often administer exams from their homes and can easily gain access to exam questions. This type of content theft is especially prevalent when institutions are unable to enforce their own testing protocols when hiring outside proctors. Unsurprisingly, many of them are unlikely to have gone through intensive training or have had prior proctoring experience.
This lack of security has proven to be a major setback for exam providers and learning institutions. They are forced to invest additional resources into creating multiple versions of an exam while endeavoring to maintain similarity in difficulty and equivalence in the content covered. Once a prepared question bank is posted online, regardless of its type, it becomes practically disposable and cannot be safely reused. Left with no option but to curate new test questions constantly, it is impossible for exam providers to aim for cost-efficiency.
Then there are the technical issues that often remain untackled due to poor software performance or insufficiently skilled technical staff. Many agitated test takers have left unfavorable reviews for various online proctoring services, calling them out on constant website glitches and overall unsatisfactory experiences.
Creating A Safer, Fairer Test-Taking Experience
On the bright side, leaders in the education sector can take actions to protect their institutions and provide secure online exams, all while endeavoring to create a positive test-taking experience for all students. Student security/content protection and remote proctoring do not have to be mutually exclusive. Here a few important strategies for institutions to consider when creating a safe, secure and fair testing environment:
1. Do your homework. It might be time to update your software. Research your options and be sure to utilize safe and effective remote proctoring systems that ensure test compliance, protection of intellectual property and student integrity without compromising client and institution privacy.
2. Take a balanced approach. As the COO of a company that offers test and training solutions, I have observed that balance is key. So, when it comes to high-stakes exams, the testing solution should include a powerful feature set, such as combining elements like traditional technology, human intervention and artificial intelligence. A “checks and balances” system can protect institutions and test-takers alike and build market confidence in remote learning and testing.
3. Verify the training of proctors. With high demand for remote proctoring, there is a mad scramble to hire people. The result is often poorly trained exam staffing. Proctors should be sufficiently trained to deliver a smooth user experience, and they should be well versed in the administration and security protocols of your exams and programs.
Remote learning and testing can be a huge opportunity for learning and training institutions. Make sure it is a win for your institution and its learners.