the e-Assessment Association

Flexible exams made possible with online invigilation

Flexible exams made possible with online invigilation

By: Mel Nethercott – VP International Business Development, PSI Services

Published Jul 21 2021 at Reproduced with kind permission.

Online proctoring, or invigilation as it is often known in the UK, has seen rapid growth in recent years. Most notably as a result of COVID-19, when secure online proctored exams and tests offered a viable alternative for credentialing organisations looking to provide much needed continuity for candidates in uncertain times.

Many organisations across the financial services, IT, healthcare and other sectors accelerated or began the move to secure remote testing during this period. And while the technology used to deliver online proctored tests isn’t a new development, rapid adoption during the pandemic has taught us a lot. As restrictions ease, we can use this experience to answer important questions, such as how can exam security be maintained for the future? And could online proctoring ultimately fully replace traditional in-person testing with secure remote exams?

Flexible learning

With many organisations and their people required to adopt new technology across hybrid workplaces, and an increase in individuals changing career path, the demand for flexible learning is expected to continue well beyond the pandemic. While some learners may be keen to return to the classroom, recent research shows 43% of students and 54% of staff prefer hybrid courses that offer a mix of online and in-person experiences. And 36% of students say flexible course options are a deciding factor in where they enrol.

Part of the drive to provide flexible learning will be a need for more agile assessment. With functionality that assesses learning to protect the integrity of qualifications, the testing organisations and their programmes, whilst delivering fairness and a level playing field for all candidates. An online test proctor provides this security by monitoring a test or exam virtually, in the same way an in-person proctor will monitor a room of candidates in a physical test centre.

What is online proctoring?

Online proctoring is a technology-enabled alternative to traditional secure testing methods. In short, the aim of online proctoring is to replicate as closely as possible the in-person testing experience. However, instead of monitoring rows of desks in a physical test centre, an online proctor monitors individuals using the webcam and microphone on their device.

With online proctoring, tests can take place at a convenient time for the test taker in a flexible location, for example an individual’s workplace or own home. For online proctoring to work, the test taker does need a stable internet connection and a suitable device with a working webcam and microphone, along with a private testing environment – such as an office or room within their home where they won’t be interrupted.

This makes online proctoring ideal for any organisation that provides high stakes assessments, from professional associations to certifying bodies and awarding organisations. What’s more, with multi-modal test delivery that gives test takers the choice of taking a test in a physical centre or a remote location of their choosing, test takers can choose to test in the manner most convenient for them.

How to cheat an online proctored exam?

When it comes to online proctoring, the only question Google is asked more frequently than ‘what is online proctoring?’ is ‘how to cheat on an online proctored exam?’. Of course, the majority of test takers do not have nefarious intent. And while the advent of secure remote testing may have changed the methods test takers use, organisations have always needed to stay one step ahead to ensure fair and reliable results.

Many of the risks of remote online testing have been significantly reduced with technological advances in test security. In addition to online proctoring, this includes ID checks with multiple layers of verification and a secure lockdown browser that restricts test takers to a full-screen testing environment until their test is complete. This prevents access to the internet, email or other applications on their device.

Equally, for organisations that have a large enough bank of question items, Linear On The Fly Testing (LOFT) allows us to easily change items to create a unique and comparable test form for every candidate. The larger the item bank and more randomised the selection model, the harder it is for test takers to learn material and pass it on to others. These preventative tools, when coupled with post-test checks that use data forensics to detect any attempted malpractice, mean that remote testing is increasingly seen as secure as in-person testing.

The future of testing

Organisations were already experiencing a skills gap when the pandemic hit, and employment statistics show this hasn’t changed. As the gap widens between the skills needed in the workplace and those available, there is an opportunity for professional certification and licensing bodies to step up and help fill the gap. With more flexible learning approaches and credentialing options – and techniques to assess them. This includes increasingly popular stackable or micro credentials, which allow individuals to progress on a career path with short courses that develop specific skills.

I believe that the future of learning is a more responsive approach for those looking to change or advance their career. And the flexibility to choose when and where to sit a test is very attractive for the many individuals juggling learning with work or caring responsibilities. In order to stay current, organisations will need to meet the ubiquitous demand for flexible learning with a robust approach to remote assessment that consistently assures professional competence and high standards.

Photograph of Mel Nethercott

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