How to prevent online learning from ruining your reputation

As more students sign up for online classes, it’s up to reputable online proctoring companies to ensure that test-takers have integrity and authenticity

online-learning-proctoring By the end of 2014, 80 percent of higher education students are expected to take some or all of their classes online, according to Pulp-PR’s recent infographic —and statistics like that make online proctoring providers very happy.

Cheating can lead to a “slow erosion” of a school’s reputation, said Jarrod Morgan, executive vice president of an online proctoring company ProctorU.

Educators have become more concerned about online cheating with the expansion of online learning, as millions of students around the globe sit down to take exams online without anyone to monitor them.

“How are we going to know that the person taking the test is a person taking the class?” said Dr. W. Andrew McCollough, associate provost for teaching and technology at the University of Florida. “Faculty are worried about that.”

In response to these concerns of student integrity, the remote proctoring industry burst on to the scene. Instead of students spending time and money traveling to a regional testing center, online proctoring allows them to take tests wherever and whenever they want.

(Next page: Characteristics of good online proctoring)

According to Vanderbilt professor Douglas H. Fisher, this may even be better than live proctoring.

Online proctoring  companies use webcams, screen share, internet blockers, biometrics, and signature tracking to authenticate students and monitor their activity while they take their tests.

While the company Mettl prevents their users from navigating away from the testing window and blocks copy/paste and print screen controls, Proctor U has students perform mirror checks to make sure notes are not taped to their computer screen. Their proctors also instruct students to pan around their room to make sure no one else is in it.

“In order to proctor, you have to see the student, see what they’re doing, and know who they are,” Morgan said.

If students violate exam policy, their activity is flagged and schools are alerted.

ProctorU, which does live screen proctoring, values putting a human being at the center of their proctoring experience, Morgan said. “This makes students more comfortable,” he added.

Their proctors work at one of four office locations and view up to 75,000 tests a month. Each proctor usually views 4 to 6 test-takers at a time, as they look for wandering eyes, typing patterns and suspicious activity.

Online proctoring companies make sure their proctors are well-trained. The company Kryterion requires their proctors to undergo 100 hours of training. To ensure quality work, Kryterion sometimes proctors their own proctors.

(Next page: Colleges and proctoring)

Doug Winneg, CEO of Software Secure, says there are three tiers of proctoring companies today. The first involves live proctoring, the second combines live proctoring and technology, and the third is pure technology, he said.

Software Secure, with its patented browser technology, falls into the second tier. “We have this mix between technology and human, which is different than anyone else,” Winneg said.

Software Secure does not do live online proctoring. Instead, video recordings of a student taking an exam are reviewed later by two different proctors.

It’s up to schools to decide what kind of online proctoring is best for them and their students, Morgan said.

The online proctoring industry is an evolving one, McCollough said. “The technology, almost daily, is being improved and upgraded,” he added.

That is why the University of Florida, which is currently experimenting with ProctorU, does not have a long-term contract with any company. “We don’t want to get locked in,” McCollough said.

And as time goes by, schools have more companies to choose from. “A lot of companies are jumping into the space right now,” Morgan said.

What started out as only a couple of online proctoring companies around 2008 has now grown into a group of nine or ten, Winneg said.

This is in part due to an increasing number of higher-ed institutions interested in seeking out online proctoring providers. Software Secure has doubled its customer base in the past 12 months, Winneg said.

But it takes time for both students and faculty members to get used to online proctoring, McCollough said.

Online proctoring systems are comparable to red light cameras. “They don’t deter you (from cheating) until you know they actually work,” Winneg said. But once you receive that ticket in the mail — or that notification that you have violated the exam policy— you have learned your lesson.

While the online proctoring industry is mostly catering to online classes, they are also open to provide their services to traditional face-to-face classes.

“We are actually seeing a lot of that in the last year. It was a bit of a surprise to me,” Morgan said.

McCollough says that while this is “certainly an option” for the University of Florida, faculty needs to keep the cost — about $15/exam — in mind.

Molly Schulson is an editorial intern with eCampus News.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.