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8 Essential Online Exam Security Tips to Maintain Academic Integrity

A school's commitment to academic integrity should be a source of pride. Educators should verify that students are familiar with the school’s code of ethics and discuss the standard of behavior expected of students in their class. This can include creating an “honor statement” to remind students of their duty to conduct themselves honorably in all their academic pursuits.

Educators also have a responsibility to be fair and transparent in their interactions with students, including the remote testing process. Explaining exactly how the invigilation system works is an invaluable part of this and can help students better prepare for their exams.

In online test environments, constructed-response questions, such as fill-in-the-blank and essay questions, can greatly improve the reliability of exams. These questions:

  • Require that students do more analysis, synthesis, and evaluation than most selected-response questions.
  • Discourage attempts to cut corners, as a quick web search is unlikely to yield an answer sufficiently specific and responsive to be marked correct.

By increasing the number of tests students take, educators avoid relying on only one or two major exams to assess students’ knowledge and determine their final grades. Scheduling more frequent, shorter tests can take some pressure off students, help them understand where they need support, and minimize test anxiety. Students also grow accustomed to the online testing process while educators are able to hone their skills in crafting effective and fair online exams.

Administering online tests that are equivalent in content but unique in how they’re presented to students can greatly enhance online exam security. When students know the lineup of questions being presented to them differs from those presented to other test-takers, they’re less likely to share test responses. It’s also important for educators not to use the same test across semesters.

This, along with smart test questions that require thoughtful answers, provides the security educators need to do away with a single test time for all students. Instead, educators can prioritize student convenience by offering on-demand exams. Allowing students to take a test at a time that works for them can support greater academic success, especially when students are spread out across time zones. Additionally, it minimizes scheduling burdens for educators.

Human-in-the-loop (HITL) proctoring solutions that combine the automation and efficiency of AI-based systems with human judgment have significant benefits over fully automated systems and traditional live remote proctoring. However, both HITL and fully automated systems often present serious concerns about privacy and reliability. This is particularly true of browser-based solutions that give proctoring companies full access to students’ computers or that rely on generic algorithms that increase the potential for false positives. Selecting an advanced invigilation system designed to ensure the integrity of every part of the testing process while respecting students’ privacy and dignity is critical.

Some students may attempt to use any extra time at the end of the test to return to questions they’re uncertain about and access prohibited resources to find the answers. Knowing that their time is limited discourages this practice. However, time limits should be reasonable to avoid putting undue pressure on students. In some cases, scheduled breaks may be beneficial.

Invigilation systems with sophisticated AI algorithms should ideally flag events reliably and consistently. However, AI does not have the wisdom necessary to determine whether a potential violation is an actual violation. As such, human review of flagged events is essential to protecting exam integrity. By addressing flagged events as soon as possible, the proctoring process becomes more reliable.

However, proctors are not the only stakeholders who should be notified of potential violations. A system that informs the student of minimally concerning behaviors in real time and allows them to take corrective action can improve proctoring accuracy, encourage ethical behavior, and minimize student anxiety. It also helps educators uphold integrity policies while saving time, as they must only review critical events rather than many minor infractions.

Making correct answers available immediately after a student finished the exam makes it possible for students who finish early to offer advice to those who are still working on the test. Before starting an online exam, let students know when and where they will be able to view the answers and receive feedback. Test scores, on the other hand, can be released immediately to lower student anxiety and offset the cognitive load they experience with online testing.

The above online exam security tips can go a long way toward ensuring academic integrity remotely and gaining student trust. When implementing these strategies, it’s important to remind students all precautions are intended to let them focus on doing their absolute best, fairly and honestly. With this approach, test-takers and educators can rely on test results to accurately reflect the knowledge of each student.

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