Online test monitoring system challenges cheating

By Miki Shine, CO-NEWS EDITOR
On March 6, 2016

Seventy-five percent of college students admitted to cheating on a higher education test according to the Boston Globe. This number is something the university is looking to change with a special focus on cheating during online tests. 

After a year-long trial period, during which the university tested a number of proctoring options for online exams, the university system has adopted the Proctorio system for all proctored online exams this semester. While it’s not required to be used at this time, the research was in response to questions from employers concerning the validity of online degrees. 

Lindsey Mercer, associate director of the media innovation team helped to lead the research, said that Proctorio was the best of the tested programs. 

The program doesn’t have a person watching the student during the actual exam, which also means the student doesn’t have to schedule when they’ll be taking the exam. The program automatically links with Canvas, and the price of using Proctorio is cheaper since it doesn’t require paying a person to watch each test. 

However, it does require both the student and the professor to be using Google Chrome as Proctorio is a browser extension. The use of Proctorio on campus is funded, for the first two years, by the tech fee that students pay every semester.

“The contract that we did … it ended up about $3 per student per exam,” Mercer said. “It’s definitely on the lower end because of the advantage that you’re not involving people and human proctors cost a lot.”

The system Proctorio offers up to three different proctoring methods through ID verification, on-screen monitoring and student monitoring. When a professor sets up a test, they get to choose which of these forms of proctoring will be used for that specific test. 

Before the student starts the test, Canvas tells the student which of the three the professor is using and students are required to be told within the course syllabus that online tests may be proctored.

“It all really depends on what the professor wants,” Mercer said. “The most common way this is being used right now is to verify the student’s identity because just that has been one of the bigger problems … and even some instructors will allow for open book or use of resources and things like that but they still want to verify that the student enrolled in the course is the one taking the test.”

The ID verification takes a picture of the student holding up their student ID before they start the exam. It won’t film the student during the exam or lock down the computer unless the professor chooses that option.

On-screen monitoring would keep an eye on the computer. Before starting the test, Proctorio asks users to close everything on their computer -- not just internet tabs but also word docs and other programs -- and keeps the user from opening anything else on the computer during the test.

The student monitoring option is the only one that films the student throughout their test. This option takes a recording of the student and flags for any suspicious behavior such as leaving the screen for an extended period of time or if it looks as though the student is checking notes that aren’t within the camera view. 

It also takes an audio recording so the film would be flagged if the student’s microphone picks up someone else talking in the room.

If a recording is flagged, it is the professor’s responsibility to review the portion it marked. As such, there’s no guarantee that it will be reviewed. While all the recordings are stored and made available to the professor, Mercer believes that only those flagged will ever get viewed.

He predicts either the state or federal government may respond to concerns brought up by employers about the validity of online degrees by requiring online tests to at least verify student identities. As such, determining a university system now becomes preemptive for if that should happen.

“I say part of the reason we went forward with Proctorio is that we don’t know and we wanted to be as proactive as we could be,” Mercer said. “We didn’t want to be scrambling in the eleventh hour to be choose a solution.”

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