Academic Outreach

Faculty Focused

What is Online Proctoring and Why is It Important?

Posted on: November 3rd, 2014 by cmhultma

Part 1 in a 2 Part Series

Online proctoring is a relatively new industry that is growing as rapidly as online education. Online proctoring companies use technology to help validate the exam process. Typically, this entails the use of technology like webcams and keyboard lock-downs. Most online proctoring is achieved using a combination of several methods. These methods include student authentication, webcam monitoring, or recognition technology (ex: facial, fingerprint, palm, voice and keystroke recognition), and keyboard lock-downs. These services are an asset to online learning; however, according to surveys taken by students and online instructors, there are also a few areas that need improvement.

Online proctoring uses a traditional approach and applies it to new challenges of online learning. There are several advantages to using online proctoring as opposed to live proctoring in a testing lab. First, online proctoring provides flexibility. Some online proctoring companies test 24 hours a day, seven days a week and up to 360 days per year. Furthermore, the student does not have to travel to a testing location and is able to test at home at almost any time of the day. Second, there are new technologies that can remotely track every click of the mouse, every stroke of the keyboard and movement of the eyes. These technologies make it difficult to cheat. In addition to technology, there are humans monitoring test takers via webcams and screen-sharing. These remote proctors will check photo IDs, signatures and some even check their typing styles in order to make sure the test-taker is the person who registered for the class.   The developing technology for online proctoring makes it a better choice for many online learners and strikes a balance of convenience and security. However, this type of proctoring does include a few negative aspects.

The downside of remote or online proctoring services are minimal and decreasing with each semester. One complaint that surfaces frequently is cost. Online proctoring services charge a fee-usually around $20.00 per hour. This additional fee on top of online tuition can be a burden for online students. Some universities are getting around this negative aspect by absorbing the proctoring fee for online students. Next, online proctoring can seem a bit Orwellian…conjuring images of Big Brother. Having a proctor peer into your home via webcam, seizing control of your computer and reading your body language and eye movements for signs of cheating can take a bit of adjustment. Finally, the biggest complaint that online instructors have is that slight peculiarities in behavior often lead to “incident” reports. These constant incident reports can make it difficult to decipher when an incident deserves attention and when it does not.

With online learning growing at unprecedented speed, universities are being challenged to effectively verify student identity in their online programs. Trusted proctoring is an essential tool for student authentication and ensuring academic honesty. Constantly new and innovative technology in online proctoring make it an option that is rapidly becoming an essential tool in online learning.