By Noor Akbari, CEO
I often say that Rosalyn is different from other proctoring companies in that we put students first. Not students only, of course, because we pay close attention to the needs of educational institutions and certifying organizations which sign the contracts. But students first, in that students’ experience with online assessment technology is the most essential data we consider as we develop our online proctoring system. If you’re involved in developing online test administration guidance at a school, it behooves you to include student input.
One way we listen to students is through our student advisory board (SAB). The SAB advises us on new product development and the user experience. They provide insights into making proctoring less intrusive, more comfortable, and respectful of their privacy and dignity.
We're not out to get you. We want to level the playing field to make sure that everybody has the chance of an excellent education.
This philosophy aligns closely with the trend in academia of looking at integrity not as a punitive function but as a part of the learning process and an opportunity for growth. It also aligns with the wants of most students. When we frame the challenge that way, it’s evident that students are some of the most important voices to listen to.
We don’t just catch people breaking the rules. Our mission is to keep tests fair, reliable, and free from bias. That includes the human bias introduced by the people overseeing exams and the algorithmic bias that may lie in the artificial intelligence at the core of our invigilation technology. Remote proctoring is one element of a spectrum of initiatives schools take to make tests fair for everyone. Accommodations for adaptive scholars and ensuring that every student has access to the technology they need to succeed in school are others. In all cases, engaging with students is vital to understanding the barriers that might be in their way.
Research suggests that lapses in academic integrity are transitory and opportunistic. Most students have an image of themselves as fine, upstanding citizens. Yet a large number, if not the majority of them, admit to having cheated at some point when the opportunity presented itself. By digging into the issue in candid conversations with students, we gain insights into what conditions make students likely to compromise their integrity. Understanding the triggers and correlations allows us to better create an environment where students are dissuaded from doing so.
Students deserve to be heard. A school’s judgment on academic integrity can have severe and far-reaching consequences for students. Students deserve to know and understand the evidence that the school used to make that determination, how it is acquired, and how it is analyzed.
At Rosalyn, we subscribe to a “right to learn,” which means everyone deserves an opportunity to get an education that will allow them to participate in our society fully. Given the historical context of unequal access to education, listening to students’ experiences around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion regarding assessment and proctoring is a moral imperative.
Students have rights. Legal rights of the jurisdiction they live in and the code that governs the educational institution they attend. Rights to privacy and equal educational opportunity are the most salient. Knowing whether students feel their rights are being respected is vital to designing systems that they will embrace and support. Our online test administration guidance is to work with students to understand friction points and adjust features and communications to address those concerns. It’s a lot easier than defending against a lawsuit down the line.
When it comes to artificial intelligence, one must go even further than the letter of the law. The law is still catching up to the state-of-the-art in artificial intelligence. Given the incredible potential for abuse that AI technologies possess, it is incumbent upon companies working in AI to self-regulate. Engaging with students to understand the zeitgeist of AI yields insights on how to harness the power of AI to do good while minimizing the impacts on student rights.
Although remote proctoring does catch students trying to gain an unfair advantage, the principal value is deterrence. Deterrence is just one part of socializing academic integrity so that it becomes the norm. For that, you need buy-in. Students have to believe that cheating is rare and faces universal disapproval.
Engaging with students in an advisory board is a great way to uncover beliefs and attitudes around assessment invigilation. Understanding how students feel is a prerequisite to making the communication and design choices that will either change their minds or address their criticism.
Students are activists; you are going to hear from them whether you like it or not. Better to come to the table as a trusted ally than as the enemy. One of our SAB members is an oft-quoted critic of remote proctoring. Her insights have been so helpful that we hired her to join our product team. By proactively engaging with students, not only on our advisory board but through interviews and surveys of a broader audience, we uncover opportunities to find solutions to areas of concern before they become contentious.
Students have a vested interest in fair, unbiased assessments. Most would rather be judged on their character and work ethic than their ability to flout the rules. Students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds rely on the strict meritocracy and academic integrity of higher education institutions to give them a fair shot at a fulfilling life and career. It’s not hard to make common cause with students in that virtuous mission.
The best online test administration guidance is to engage with students early and often in the process of choosing a remote proctoring partner. Schools have had some leeway during the Covid crisis, but distance learning is only going to grow. Remote proctoring is going to become the standard for online courses. Embracing a philosophy of putting students first, engaging with students in the development phase, and building solutions educated by their insights will help future-proof your online proctoring system.