Remote proctoring – the future of assessment in education?

Douglas Winneg, executive vice president of PSI Certification, outlines the aspects that must be considered before moving assessments online and bringing in remote proctoring

The growth in online learning has been rapid. Further and higher education no longer demand a physical presence on campus, at lectures or in seminars. Students are increasingly choosing to receive their education remotely, on-demand, at their own pace and at a time that suits their schedule.

These changing expectations have not only led to an exponential rise in online learning, they have also increased the adoption of remote proctoring. Proctoring, or invigilation, is no longer restricted to a scheduled time and a physical exam centre anymore. And the days of students sitting in gymnasiums working with pen and paper are numbered.

Right move, right time

Remote proctoring is already widely used by both public and private sector organisations. More than 500 universities in the US already use remote proctoring, and IT global certification agencies such as ISACA and The Linux Foundation are also well-established examples.

What’s more, since 2011, when a group of Stanford professors first started putting their courses online and making them available to anyone, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have changed the landscape of online learning. MOOCs have already provided over 100 million students with online content, often accompanied by a qualification, without being attached to a university.

While the number of people signing up for MOOCs appears to have peaked, increased expectations around ease of access and the user experience are here to stay. Education providers will need to keep up, either with their own offering or by partnering with MOOCs, to meet these demands.

Changing demographic

Education providers are also starting to evolve to meet the changing demographic of their students. With a wide age range of students, and many experiencing funding challenges, more people need to work to support themselves through continuing education. Courses also need to work around family commitments – whether it’s caring for children, ageing parents or both.

This inevitably creates a tension that online learning and assessment must address – how to deliver a degree, diploma or other credential in a way that is convenient for the student, while still protecting the integrity and validity of the qualification. A continuum exists, with maximum security at one end and maximum convenience at the other. The only way to achieve convenience while accurately reflecting the knowledge of the learner is remote proctoring.

Workforce ready

Another factor driving the demand for online learning and assessment is the need for education to prepare students for the workplace. A shift is taking place in education. Content has previously been the starting point for course development, with assessments created subsequently, to test how well and how much a student has learned.

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It’s becoming more common to identify the skills that education needs to develop first, with courses then developed that teach and assess these skills. Ensuring that assessments are both legitimate and validated becomes increasingly important as a result. And creating tests that achieve this requires knowledge, experience and expertise in developing assessments as much as it does subject matter expertise.

Different options

It’s important to understand that all remote proctoring solutions are not created equal. Because online proctoring is flexible, organisations are able to opt for a level of security that’s appropriate for their needs. For example, high stakes testing, such as license to practise, will demand higher security measures. Whereas tests that have less serious consequences placed on their outcome won’t need elevated security.

Every organisation has different prerequisites when it comes to security, acceptable levels of risk, candidate experience and budget. When these needs have been assessed, there are three main options:

Live online proctoring is a highly secure method of test delivery. No specialised hardware is needed and live online proctoring can take place on any device with an internet connection, microphone and camera. This makes it an incredibly flexible and convenient option for candidates, as well as a highly scalable approach for organisations.

Testing kiosks are ideal for online assessments that require test centre levels of security. A testing kiosk is a highly transportable physical solution that includes an ID scanner, HD cameras and software that connects the test taker securely to an online proctor. The kiosk is small enough to fit into the boot of a car and can be set up in just 10 minutes.

Record & review proctoring is very similar to the live process and a significant step up in security from an un-proctored test environment. Test takers still download the secure browser and go through the same ID authentication process in order to access the exam. The whole session is then recorded via webcam and a proctor reviews the recording after the test has taken place.

Trust and adoption

The increase in online assessment and remote proctoring isn’t merely an unstoppable trend. Evidence continues to prove that online proctoring is not only highly accessible to the education sector, but also a secure, non-invasive, cost effective and extremely convenient alternative to traditional onsite proctoring. There are still challenges to address, and technology solutions alone are not a panacea to solving these, but they are definitely part of the solution. With the introduction and increasing confidence in Artificial Intelligence, biometrics and data forensics, the potential for remote proctoring will continue to grow and change.

Technology has also brought a shift in the balance of power. How courses were taught and assessed used to be entirely in the hands of faculty members. With more choice now available to students around how they access their education, and with online learning now firmly established as a credible and widely recognised alternative to face-to-face teaching, most education providers are now looking at remote proctoring.

So, the question is no longer about whether remote proctoring is the future of assessment in education. It’s about which of the many remote proctoring options to select.

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