Student Experience or Exam Security? Get Both with Online Proctoring


Student Experience or Exam Security? Get Both with Online Proctoring

Mark Musacchio


Until recently, many educators believed that the only choices for secure test delivery were either a brick and mortar test center or testing in the classroom with a tightly managed infrastructure and onsite human proctors. While some colleges and universities had moved exams online, most education providers – from primary to higher education – were finding that time constraints were their biggest challenge when implementing new digital strategies.i

Now, with the spread of COVID-19 and the requirement for social distancing, the need to explore options for secure online assessment alternatives to onsite testing has moved up the agenda to become an urgent necessity. The student experience of online assessments and how they are proctored has become just as important as security, as test takers are expected to adopt new technology and adapt to unexpected ways of teaching and learning in a hurry.

While the adoption of online proctoring in education has been steadily increasing, several schools have maintained a traditional residential model of teaching and learning. The schools that have been leading the way in distance and online learning have mostly embraced online proctoring to varying degrees. It’s the schools that have been slower to fully embrace distance learning that are struggling with the forced changes and rapid migration to online learning modalities. Similarly, private and public sector organizations have begun to embrace online proctoring more widely. From pre-employment, skills, and development assessments, to certification, licensure, and language testing, this online proctoring use proves that it is possible for education providers working with increased physical constraints to dramatically expand their students’ access to assessments while still retaining the integrity of high stakes exams.

New normal

At PSI, we understand that a migration from in-person exams – and even paper-based to online testing – involves weighing the relative benefits of the latter against valid concerns over moving from a tried and tested approach. However, for many organizations, even in “normal” circumstances, a physical test environment doesn’t offer a comprehensive solution. And online proctoring provides an answer to many of the existing infrastructure challenges education providers face.

Geographical coverage and travel time, for instance, are already pressing issues as an increasing proportion of learning is delivered online. Online proctoring delivers on the requirement for testing in locations that are convenient for students – so much so that many assessments can be taken in the comfort of a student’s own home. Today’s modern learner often chooses the right program for them based on different criteria than years past.  Now more than ever, students have a multitude of options to achieve their learning and training objectives. Two of the key factors are convenience and the freedom of completing their work on their schedule and at their own pace. Telling a student they have to get in their car and drive to a campus test center during business hours just doesn’t cut it for many students.

Convenient & flexible

Just like any other sector, education providers are subject to increased competition and a need to differentiate themselves from competitors. This has intensified the demand from students for convenience when it comes to the scheduling and location of assessments.

A student’s timetable can be hectic, even more so with adult learners balancing families and jobs. Between classes, studying, jobs, internships, and personal life, it can be challenging and stressful for a student to confine an exam to certain hours of the day. Record and review online proctoring, in particular, gives your students the flexibility to take assessments at a time that’s convenient for them. And a live online proctor can be booked 24 hours a day with minimal advanced notice.

Data & privacy

Data privacy is a major issue – and with good reason when stories about data hacks, breaches, and leaks are constantly hitting the headlines. As a result, students are hyper aware of potential threats, for example, when it comes to granting an online proctor full remote access to their computer which is something that we always avoid at PSI. Find out more about the threat of remote access.

To reassure your students and ensure their comfort and confidence with the systems you have in place, any online proctoring provider should have robust security measures in place and respect key laws affecting online privacy, such as the European GDPR, U Federal laws, and state legislation like CCPA in California. Your students’ privacy and protection are of the utmost importance, so you need to be able to answer their toughest data protection questions. Read our FAQs dispelling common student data privacy concerns with online proctoring.

Support & integration

Exceptional customer support is essential to the experience your students have with online proctoring. And in a world where everything is reviewed, ranked, and shared online, you want to ensure you’re making the right impression, as well as minimizing the stress and any potentially negative impact on students (particularly if this is an unexpected change due to a global pandemic).

Without adequate customer support, your students might be, at best, ill informed, and at worst, stressed, worried, and mistrustful. So, it’s important to set your students up for success with access to system experts, practice exams, quality resources, and well-trained instructors. Equally, online proctoring that integrates seamlessly with your Learning Management System (LMS) is vital to create a seamless user experience and assessment process.

When online proctoring is delivered to these high standards, our research shows:ii

  • Students rate online proctored exams favorably.
  • Students’ scores are comparable to the same exams administered with onsite proctoring.
  • Ratings of testing conditions were virtually uncorrelated with exam performance, suggesting that student experiences under different testing conditions don’t affect performance.
Security & accessibility

It’s clear that the widely held view in education – that a physical test center or in-class testing presents the most secure option for delivering high stakes exams – is now outdated. And with the immediate increase in demand for secure online assessments due to COVID-19, the pace of innovation in online proctoring will only accelerate.

It’s exciting to consider what the near future holds for online testing, when technologies such as online proctoring already deliver the security of a test center with further convenience and accessibility for the candidate, while also successfully meeting the ultimate challenge – to deliver secure remote assessments when there can be no physical exam center.


i 2019. Planet Estream.

ii 2017. A comparative study of online remote proctored versus onsite proctored high-stakes exams. Journal of Applied Testing Technology.