How to Make Online Exam Monitoring Feel Less Creepy


How to Make Online Exam Monitoring Feel Less Creepy

Mark Musacchio


When it comes to exams that not only affect the future of your students, but also the future of your organization, any change to how they are delivered needs to be managed carefully. Your brand reputation, validity and integrity of qualifications, and Intellectual Property (IP) are all at stake.

With more learning already delivered online and an unknown future of social distancing ahead of us due to COVID-19, the demand for online assessments is rising. Given that our current education system is dependent on exams and any major change to this will need serious time and consideration, secure online assessments are needed now.

Why Monitor Students?

Research shows that, like in the classroom during online tests, instances of malpractice increase substantially if a test is not proctored. So some level of surveillance is needed if you want to prevent students from trying to circumvent the rules during online exams. Whether you use live or record-and-review online proctoring, a proctor is there to verify a test taker’s ID and observe their environment via their webcam in much the same way as an onsite proctor would.

Online proctors are trained to pick up the use of unauthorized devices or suspicious objects, actions, or people that might indicate malpractice during an exam. It’s about creating a level playing field and making sure that every student gets the result they deserve.

What Students Say

In online discussions about online proctoring, including a recent debate in the New York Times, there’s a general consensus that a minority of students will inevitably try to cheat. That’s why some students feel that online proctoring is appropriate because students are monitored while in school. There’s also a recognition that without security measures, we are ultimately allowing some students to gain unfair advantage over others. However, it’s never a good idea to require the proctor to remote into students’ computers. This increases the sense of intrusiveness and creepiness that students may already be feeling, and it creates an unnecessary data security liability.

As an educator, in partnership with your online proctoring vendor, it’s your responsibility to minimize the impact on students through the use of appropriate technology and open, honest communication.

Somebody’s Watching You

With exams being conducted and proctored in someone’s own home – their kitchen, living room, or even bedroom –it can understandably feel more invasive for students than being in an exam hall. Minimally intrusive technology will help to reduce the impact.

For example, PSI’s lockdown browser can be downloaded in seconds and then removed from a student’s computer immediately after their exam is complete. It delivers online proctoring in a fair testing environment where students are prevented from copying, pasting, using another application, and accessing other websites. This is far less intrusive than full remote access, where a proctor can see what programs a student has running, close them, and even change the desktop wallpaper.

In some cases, a human online proctor is enhanced by Artificial Intelligence (AI). This makes the process more accurate and efficient but can add to concerns about being watched. Students should be reassured that neither an online proctor nor AI will ever be responsible for making a final decision about the validity of their exam. This will always be down to their education provider. Equally, a recording will always be available to provide evidence in the event of a student appeal, and test recordings will be deleted after they are no longer relevant.

Data Privacy

Now, more than ever, there’s a focus and hyper-vigilance on student data privacy. A good proportion of students are likely to be tech savvy. They understand the risks when they share their Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and need to know they are protected.

If your Learning Management System (LMS) has Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), it will seamlessly integrate with our online proctoring system. This provides access with a single sign on and eliminates the need for users – faculty and students – to create accounts in separate systems and enter their PII twice.

Asking users to create multiple accounts and provide PII and demographic information is unnecessary and often unwanted. Good LTI integration will eliminate these issues by leveraging the user’s LMS enrollment to avoid exposing additional PII and create a trust relationship between the two systems. What’s more, Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Sakai, and many other systems are LTI compliant.

Find out more about LMS integration and LTI compliance in our blog here.

With LMS integration, students will be taking their exams in a familiar environment with a single sign on, making the process seamless and less susceptible to human error. The opportunity to take practice exams in the new testing environment will also help to reduce anxiety.

Don’t Ignore Concerns

As with any resistance, the most dangerous thing you can do is ignore it and hope it goes away. Educators must provide clear information and FAQs online as well as a point-of-contact for students who have questions or concerns about online proctoring, their data privacy, or personal information.

When this clarity of communication is combined with the latest technology to achieve best practice, research has shown virtually no difference between how candidates rate the experience of onsite or online proctoring and no difference at all in test results.ii This makes the transition from onsite to online proctoring easier and less stressful – for you and your students.


i Connolly, Lentz & Morrison, 2006; Ramos, 2003. 
ii Weiner, J., & Hurtz, G. (2017). A comparative study of online remote proctored versus onsite proctored high-stakes exams. Journal of Applied Testing Technology.