What is Online Proctoring?


What is Online Proctoring?

Isabelle Gonthier

We’ve all been talking and hearing about online proctoring, the future of virtual assessment, and the latest trends. But let’s get back to the fundamentals. In this blog, we’ll review what online proctoring means, as well as how some of our colleagues in higher education are using it to maintain the continuity of their programs and increase flexibility, convenience, and security for their test-takers before, during, and after coronavirus. In my last blog, I talked about the future of online proctoring and the rapidly advancing technologies that are already available and entering the market. However, it’s important to remember that online proctoring isn’t a new development; it’s been around for over 20 years. The coronavirus crisis – and the immediate need for online working, collaboration, education, and certification – is increasing the pace of change, but many of us have been living and working in a digital world for some time. Remote working increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017, and over 6 million Americans are pursuing an online education.i So, while it’s impressive to see how quickly many businesses and their people have been able to adapt to the current situation, the technology to support remote working and learning existed long before any of us had even heard of COVID-19. Similarly, many certification programs are adding online proctoring options to increase flexibility and convenience for test-takers and, now, to help maintain continuity during a global pandemic. Online proctoring is a secure, non-invasive, cost effective, and extremely convenient alternative to traditional onsite proctoring.
What is online proctoring?
Whether it’s in person or online, proctoring involves checking that a test-taker is who they say they are, answering any questions or concerns they might have, and being present to prevent, identify, and report malpractice. Online proctoring is a secure, technology-enabled alternative to on-site testing. We can look to the higher education space for examples. Globally, multiple universities have taken steps towards moving exams online, including Monash University in Australia, New York University, Johns Hopkins University, and The University of Edinburgh. What’s more, multinational organizations such as The Linux Foundation, Hewlett-Packard, and ISACA deliver certification testing online, proving that effective proctoring can be conducted remotely by a trained individual who is able to observe assessments by monitoring test-takers via their webcam and tracking activity on their computer. In addition to the many effective examples of online proctoring in 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 Studies also show that when online tests are proctored, students are far less likely to resort to academic dishonesty.iii
Options for online proctoring
We know that it’s possible to maintain the security and integrity of online testing without compromising the candidate experience. But how is this achieved? Every organization has different needs when it comes to test security, acceptable levels of risk, candidate experience, and budget. And there are different types of online proctoring that meet those individual needs. As many people are coming to online proctoring for the first time, it’s worth outlining what they are: 1. Record and review proctoring provides a highly flexible option for organizations looking to move exam proctoring online or increase security from non-invigilated tests. Record and review proctoring not only minimizes disruption for students, who are able to take their planned exams at home, but it’s also an extremely efficient and cost-effective option for organizations. The process:
  • Test-taker downloads secure browser and goes through rigorous online ID authentication process.
  • Entire session is recorded via webcam.
  • Online proctor reviews recording after the test is complete to flag and report on any incidents.
2. Live online proctoring provides a secure method of delivery for high-stakes testing when students are unable to leave their home. It can take place on most devices with an internet connection, microphone, and camera. Not only is live online proctoring convenient for candidates, it is also scalable, flexible, and secure for organizations, and significantly reduces administrative burden and costs. The process:
  • Online check-in administrator meets, greets, checks, and verifies test taker’s ID.
  • Exam is released and delivered through a secure browser.
  • Online proctor takes over, using the webcam to spot suspicious activity in real time, give the test taker a warning, or pause the test to investigate further.
3. Testing kiosks offer the most secure option available for online proctoring. While they aren’t appropriate for use during social distancing, when all returns to normal – as it eventually will – testing kiosks are at least as secure as a physical test center. A testing kiosk consists of an ID scanner, HD cameras, and software that connects the test taker to an online proctor. The whole thing fits into the trunk of a car and can be set up in under 10 minutes. The process:
  • Administrator greets test taker in person and authenticates their ID.
  • Administrator introduces test taker to online proctor who validates the ID using built-in scanner.
  • Online proctor manages and monitors the rest of the testing process.
Candidate experience & security
Any test that is delivered online can use online proctoring, and the benefits to organizations are significant. Remote assessments are increasingly seen as being as secure as physical test centers, and the various options, including multi-modal programs involving test centers and online proctoring, can be used to effectively address different needs.iv What’s more, most of these options can be implemented in a short space of time to meet the existing demand. The requirement for all types of remote working, including the need to minimize disruption and maintain continuity for student exams, is a current imperative. But long after effective treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19 have been the found, the need to maintain the security and integrity of online testing without compromising candidate experience will be an ongoing necessity.


i Analysis of U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics; National Center for Education Statistics, 2018.

ii Weiner, J., & Hurtz, G. (2017). A comparative study of online remote proctored versus onsite proctored high-stakes exams. Journal of Applied Testing Technology.

iii Helaine M. Alessio, Nancy Malay, Karsten Maurer, A. John Bailer, and Beth Rubin (2017). Examining the effect of proctoring on online test scores. Online Learning.

iv Weiner, J., & Hurtz, G. (2017). A comparative study of online remote proctored versus onsite proctored high-stakes exams. Journal of Applied Testing Technology.