Let me tell you a story.

Sarah was ready for the Statistics 101 final. She had studied hard and knew her stuff. The same diligence that earned the young African-American woman a spot at the elite university would get her a good score on the remotely proctored exam.  She was sure of it - Until things went dreadfully wrong.

The first challenge was finding a place to take the test. It was hard enough to find a quiet room in the apartment that Sarah shared with two other young women.

Then, the internet connection started to become what could charitably be called “intermittent.”  She prayed it would hang on the 90 minutes she needed for the exam.

She popped into the kitchen to give her roommates the heads up saying, “Just a reminder, everybody needs to keep it down for the next 90 minutes while I take my Stats final.”  Once back in front of her newly cleared desk, she turned her head around to look at the background.  Nails and pinholes dotted the now blank wall denuded of its posters and frames.

At ten minutes before three, Sarah clicked on the link to the exam.  The exam app tested her laptop to see if it met the system requirements and minimum internet connectivity.  Crossing her fingers that the internet stayed up. She was relieved by the green light that she was good to go.

A Rough Check-in

She didn’t fare so well on the next part of checking in. When prompted to take a picture of her torso, the system told her she needed more light to read her face.  Scrambling, she found a desk lamp in her roommate’s room and cast about to find a free outlet.

It was four minutes until exam time!

She then took a webcam image of her photo ID.  After a short pause, the screen told her the system couldn’t verify her identity and that she needed to call customer service.

Now, it was two minutes until exam time.  Sarah rummaged around in her bag to get her phone, dialed the number, and fortunately got through to the rep, who verified her identity and allowed her test to proceed.

One minute past 3 o’clock.  Close enough to on time. Here we go. She was starting the exam!

But Sarah was rattled. She took a deep breath, pushed aside the nagging fear, and started reading the first question.

Answering Questions While Rattled

Anxiety keeps creeping back into her mind. She imagined the invisible eyes of the webcam watching her, judging her.  As she tried to remember the formulas for combining random variables, she caught herself looking over to the corner of the room.  She suddenly froze, struck by a frisson of terror. “Are they going to think I’m reading a cheat sheet over there?” Slowly unclenching, she refocused on the next question. A little later, she caught herself reading the questions out loud. Again the spasm of fear “Oh no, is that a rule violation?” Despite her best efforts, she couldn’t dispel the intrusive thoughts. And that anxiety kindled the facial tics that she had long controlled with medication—only adding to her distress.

Sarah soldiered on.  Completing questions, checking her work, making progress. She was regaining control. The tics subsided.

An Unwelcome Visitor and a Scare

Then her roommate, Amy popped into the room without knocking. “Hey, Sarah…” Sarah didn’t say a word, just whipped around and scowled like an ogre, making violent shooing motions with her arms. “Oh, sorry, my bad,” Amy said as she retreated.  but the damage was done. Her composure shattered once again. Sarah dug deep to find the resilience to carry on.

Mercifully, the timer counted down the 90th minute, and the exam was over.  Instead of relief, Sarah felt a heavy dread come over her.  “Am I going to get tagged for cheating? Are they going to think I was reading crib notes or getting help from someone?” she wondered. “Did Amy ruin it for me by coming in?”

The Aftermath

As confident as she was coming into the test, she was now despairing. All the anxiety she’d suffered had made it hard to focus. She barely finished in time and was sure she’d made mistakes.  And then she had a more troubling thought.  What was going to happen to the video and audio from the test? Is that now going to be floating around in the cloud forever?

A Composite of Online Test Administration Examples

The story is made up, a composite of published student experiences. Students shouldn’t be put in these kinds of anxiety-provoking situations. And they needn’t be. Much student anxiety can be eliminated with proctoring tools designed from the ground up with the student experience as a top priority. Here’s some features that make a real difference:

Setting the Standard

Distance learning has become the new normal, and Rosalyn is committed to raising the bar for the student experience in invigilating online test administration. Developed with insights from both a technical advisory board of educators and technologists and a first in the industry student advisory board, Rosalyn’s online proctoring system balances the need for academic integrity with respect for the rights and dignity of students.

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