Remote proctoring: opportunity in a digitally connected world
Remote proctoring or remote invigilation has grown vastly in profile over the Covid-19 pandemic, as education providers, mostly in higher education and professional qualifications, scrambled to keep the examination wheels turning. It is an obvious, and perhaps inevitable, extension of the growing trend towards online and blended learning, and experts believe it is here to stay. The market is forecast to grow 18.1% over the next few years, to reach a global market size of $661.4m by 2025 compared to $340.2m in 2019, according to Market Study Report.1
What is remote proctoring?
In simple terms it is the invigilation of examinations conducted at a distance. It could be as simple as an invigilator watching a test-taker through their webcam/ screen-sharing – known as ‘live proctoring’ – which mimics most closely the test centre environment. Or it could be ‘record and review’, whereby tests are recorded and watched back by human examiners after the event. We then enter the realms of smart technology – automated proctoring conducted by AI that monitors for potential cheating flags such as frequent looking away from the screen, people entering the room, navigating away from the test window and so on. This is the area where remote proctoring really has the chance to revolutionise online examinations, ensuring they are as robust as those sat in a test centre. In theory it is less intrusive, unbiased, un-cheatable. There is also a hybrid option, whereby potential cheating flagged by the AI is reviewed and accepted or rejected by a more nuanced human brain.
Remote proctoring in a post Covid world
The need for remote proctoring during Covid-19 when examinations centres were shut completely or restricted for months at a time and could not be relied upon to be open at the crucial moment is obvious. But what happens post-pandemic, when the virus is much less of a threat and restrictions on social distancing are lifted? Won’t we simply go back to standard centre-based examinations with normal face to face invigilation? While normal centre-based pen-and-paper and online examinations are likely to resume for the most part, Covid has made us more aware that another way is possible – not only in terms of where we take exams, but also where and how we learn and how we should be assessing. Covid has offered us an unexpected chance to completely reimagine education from the bottom up.
So, even putting aside the need for us to disaster plan in case of future pandemics, or in case this one has not yet had its final word, the chances are that we are entering into a new phase for education and training generally, one in which the physical location of the learner and the teacher are of less importance – a hybrid world of synchronous and asynchronous learning that does not necessarily require ‘real-life’ attendance in a classroom.
Evolving and adapting: the future of remote invigilation
As with anything new and revolutionary, remote proctoring has faced a few difficulties in its early days and raised some questions around security, privacy and the accuracy of AI. While most of the problems with the technology will undoubtedly be fixed and addressed in future iterations and algorithms will get better and better with time as the AI has more ‘data’ to crunch, there’s no doubt that remote proctoring will require something of a cultural shift.
Working with examinees to prepare and reassure them is the key to ensuring a smooth process. A number of Professional Bodies and Universities pivoted to digital assessment during 2020, many using remote proctoring to deliver exams to candidates unable to get to test centres. While it’s fair to say it has been a learning curve, with improvements added at each exam session, the online exam sessions were well received by members and students, who reported a generally good experience. This can at least be partially credited to the level of support offered by professional bodies and universities in the lead-up to the exam. In many cases, examinees were able to access practice tests and a suite of guidance materials, technical documentation and FAQs, enabling them to prepare fully – practically and mentally – and avoid last-minute shocks or surprises.
In spite of some teething problems, remote proctoring is likely to keep on gaining in popularity in a post-pandemic world. Covid has prompted many organisations to step over the remote proctoring threshold, learning and improving, becoming more comfortable and familiar with the technology and how to manage the process. We’re now starting to see efficacy studies emerge into aspects of remote proctoring such as equivalency of grades and what effect it has on levels of cheating. As the evidence base grows, problems are fixed and positive students stories begin to travel by word of mouth, we’re likely to see remote proctoring settle into the ‘norm.’ In a world where online or blended courses are more and more popular – not just MOOCs (where participants are largely left to their own devices), but online courses that aim to offer a full equivalency of face-to-face learning in terms of interactivity, networking and support, remote proctoring is a natural and essential piece of the jigsaw.