Criticisms of remote proctoring focus on the problems of equity and privacy and the anxiety that students experience while being monitored by live human proctors or artificial intelligence systems. The concerns of remote proctoring detractors are specific and supported by research into the algorithmic bias and functional shortcomings of some incumbent remote proctoring vendors. However, what’s missing from the debate is the inarguable benefits accruing to students themselves from a well-designed remote proctoring program.
Benefits to Students
Many of the benefits of remote proctoring of exams to students are the same for instructors and educational institutions. They allow schools to administer assessments to students remotely to prevent students from gaining an unfair advantage on the exams through pre-knowledge of the test content, unauthorized collaboration with other students, or online resources to get prohibited help. The best of these online remote proctoring solutions deliver these benefits in a scalable, cost-effective manner that can accommodate all kinds of learners. Remote proctoring helps maintain academic integrity and raises the value of the educational experience for all stakeholders. But remote proctoring of exams has even more concrete benefits for students. These provide a massive counterweight to some of the more extreme arguments of remote proctoring skeptics.
Students don’t have to schedule an exam, go to a test center, and sit for the exam at a specific time. Instead, they can take exams in the comfort of their home or convenient study area.
Accommodating the needs of students with disabilities is far easier when they can take an exam in the comfort and convenience of their home.
It should go without saying, but remote proctoring of exams helps prevent cheating by students. Unfortunately, assaults on academic integrity have become endemic. The digital transformation of every aspect of education has led to the proliferation of countless websites online where students can get unauthorized help with their papers and exams. In the face of ready access to prohibited resources, aggressive invigilation of exams is one of the few barriers to corruption of higher education grading and scoring standards that are supposed to assign just rewards to appropriate talent and effort levels. Remote proctoring of exams helps keep assessments fair in four different ways:
- ID verification prevents students from having another person take the test in their place. Instead, students take a picture with their webcam that is then compared against the government photo ID to ensure the person taking the exam is who they say they are.
- Test delivery applications prevent students from cutting and pasting across programs or having other programs open during the test session, so they cannot record test content and make it available immediately to confederates or after the exam to students taking the test subsequently. Proctoring systems will also detect if the test-takers use a device like a cell phone during the exam to capture images of test content.
- The most common way students try to gain an unfair advantage on exams is by consulting crib notes. Remote proctoring systems can detect if the test-takers are looking off to the side of the keyboard or screen to consult hidden notes.
- Remote proctoring systems often prevent students from opening other applications besides the test application, so they can’t use communication apps on their computer to get help from collaborators or the internet during the exam. Likewise, proctors’ monitoring of their microphones and webcam will catch attempts to get help on answers from collaborators offscreen by talking to them.
This multi-dimensional invigilation system can detect most of the ways that students try to compromise tests. This monitoring is a powerful deterrent for students who might consider compromising their integrity by violating the test rules. When the vast majority of students understand that breaking the test rules is difficult and consequently rare, then students can feel confident that the assessments are administered fairly and that they will earn the score and grade that they deserve from their hard work.
Proctors working in a test center must learn an extraordinary amount of processes and procedures. For example, the manual for administration of the SAT by the College Board runs 64 single-spaced pages. It details all the behaviors that a test-taker might exhibit and the proctor’s proper response. In contrast, remote proctoring of exams automates all of this procedure and uniformly applies it to every test session. Thus, consistency in exam administration doesn't rely solely on the quality of the proctors' focused attention, training, or diligence. The administration rules are part of the proctoring system and will be applied in the exact same way until there is an update in the programming.
Another challenge some schools experience is in the hybrid classroom, where some students attend class in person and others remotely. In this case, administering exams differently to the in-person students and the remote students might give one or the other group an advantage on assessments. Remote proctoring of exams allows a single uniform method to be used with all students.
Many schools are accelerating their efforts to move away from multiple-choice question (MCQ) tests to other forms of “authentic assessment.” These are frequently essays, projects, or oral exams. These assessments require students to apply the knowledge they have learned in class to solve a problem or develop a thesis and argumentation from the corpus of knowledge gained in the course in a written project.
One such school was the University of Michigan at Dearborn. Although authentic assessments are a fascinating development that heralds an emerging trend in education, these forms of assessment are not ready for broad deployment. Grading papers is a lot more resource-intensive and subjective than scoring MCQ exams. Dearborn could only accomplish an authentic assessment program during the pandemic because of funds available under the CARES act. In addition, the quality of the assessments was not up to the same standard as the MCQ exams that had come before, and instructors who had employed them did not expect to continue offering such project based assessments post-pandemic.
The quantitative nature of remotely proctored online exams and the consistent, reliable way they are administered remotely allows for controlling variables. It gives instructors and administrators insight into the ways students are learning the kinds of hurdles encountered in the instructional design of remote learning. Although authentic assessments such as papers or projects may better reflect the application of knowledge to real-world problems, projects and papers don’t lend themselves as easily to quantitative analysis to uncover trends in performance. In addition to specific scoring of the exams, remote proctoring yields data around answer timings, students’ gestures, and behaviors, which may yield insights into designing better lessons and courses and reducing the cognitive load of test anxiety on students.
An epidemic of violations of the test rules was seen all across the country during the epidemic. This phenomenon, however, was a continuation of trends that had come before. Although the prestige of American institutions of higher learning can hold up under a lot of mud, students and employers rely on their alma mater’s reputation as a badge of quality and ticket to higher income opportunities. Continual degradation of public opinion around the credibility and validity of degrees and rank at university damages the value of students’ hard effort into earning a place at a school and their hard work to achieve a high class rank and degree once there. Remote proctoring of exams has helped restore some of that reputation for propriety and is a force for maintaining and improving the institutions’ perceived value. As painful as some of the cheating scandals have been for schools like West Point, the detection, investigation, and resolution of the test violations made possible by remote proctoring can only bolster their commitment to the values of academic integrity.
Robust invigilation of exams and student privacy are not mutually exclusive. Universities can protect their academic integrity and student’s rights at the same time. Proctoring companies like Rosayn.ai have focused their design efforts on understanding the student experience and have made the wants and needs of students a fundamental pillar of their design philosophy. However, there are limits to how far any proctoring company can accommodate students’ attitudes towards privacy and monitoring. The system has to watch students and record the test session to invigilate exams properly. Rosalyn uses artificial intelligence for 95% of the monitoring, so the amount of time a test-taker is watched is minimal. Who does the watching, what is done with recordings, how the AI is trained, and the actual student experience are all factors that go into deciding whether the benefits of remote proctoring of exams outweigh the cost, both financial and personal. At Rosalyn, we have reduced both of these costs and continually improved students’ and instructors’ experience. Please take a look at our solution and make your calculation.