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Online exam proctoring to be offered in the fall

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Photo by: Madison Morriss | Staff Photographer
Faculty Senate is discussing a system for online proctoring to prevent students from cheating on online exams.

Starting in the fall, students enrolled in online courses will be monitored when taking exams using a new proctoring service.

University officials plan to offer online exam proctoring services for all online courses through a service provider after running a pilot program in summer courses.

After considering online exam proctoring since January and receiving proposals from many providers, officials narrowed the list to Proctor U and Examity. Both providers work through TRACS to ensure the student taking the test is the individual enrolled in the course and does not use prohibited resources during the exam.

“Our goal is to have the process in production by the beginning of the fall semester,” said  Carlos Solis, associate vice president of Instructional Technologies Support.

To decide on a provider, administration organized a pilot program for online courses in the summer one session. Proctor U and Examity agreed to provide a total of 600 exams for the pilot program, Solis said.

“Our next step forward is the pilot,” said Patrick Smith, assistant director of Instructional Design. “The first step is test both of these vendors out. Then, we can chose which vendor we’ll go with. The implementation should go quickly after that.”

Students enrolled in the nine summer courses chosen for the pilot will try out one of the two proctoring services. At the end of the course, students and faculty will offer feedback about their experience with the proctoring service.

“We want to know whether or not they found the process difficult,” Solis said. “We want to know whether or not they needed to call technical support. Overall, what the quality of that experience was for those participating.”

Officials will take feedback into consideration when deciding which provider to contract, Solis said.

“We will take a holistic approach,” Solis said. “(The decision is) not just going to be based on the technology or not just based on the user experience.”

Online proctoring is especially important for faculty and students engaged in online and hybrid courses, said Debbie Thorne, associate vice president of Academic Affairs.

“We needed a way to ensure that faculty could schedule exams and students would be able to take the exam in a proctored environment,” Thorne said.

Proctoring is similar to a classroom environment where professors, graduate assistants or staff members oversee students as they complete an exam, Thorne said.

“(Online) proctoring is very similar to what we do in the classroom nearly every day,” Thorne said. “There’s some type of oversight as the student is taking the exam to make sure they’re only using the materials, if any, that are allowed for the exam.”

When taking a test with online proctoring, a student will turn on their webcam to be supervised by the service provider. Students will be required to verify their identity, probably by presenting their student ID.

“The student, through their camera on their computer, is being proctored by a person who may be in another state because they’re able to view the student while they’re taking the test through video,” Thorne said.

When students log in to the service to be proctored, they will need a webcam with a microphone, Internet connectivity and a browser, Solis said.

“Through that webcam, students connect to a service center where a proctor is watching them along with other participants online while they take their tests,” Solis said.

Faculty members receive a report from the provider after the test to notify them of possible instances of academic dishonesty and they decide what action to take, Solis said.

University officials are working to ensure that when students provide identification to take an online exam, it is not compromising their privacy, Solis said.

“Part of the conversation right now with the providers is looking at what identification will be deemed appropriate in the process,” Solis said. “The possibility will be that students will hold up their student ID.”

Solis said other universities and service providers require students to present a state-issued photo identification or driver’s license, but that is sharing too much information.

“Along the process, we’re deeply concerned with trying to make sure that students’ privacy and information are safeguarded, especially as we engage with outside providers to give us some services,” Solis said.

Face-to-face courses might eventually be offered online exam proctoring after officials work out the logistics, Smith said.

“It’s definitely something we want to offer,” Smith said. “A lot of instructors have shown that interest. They might want use their face-to-face class time for more interactive activities rather than having students come in and spend the whole hour and a half just sitting quietly, taking a test.”

As there is a fee for every test a student takes using online proctoring, officials must consider funding, Smith said. Students enrolled in an online or hybrid class pay an electronic course fee, which will be used to support the online proctoring service.

“At this point, we are primarily targeting our online courses,” Solis said.

Officials must consider how to pay for proctoring in face-to-face classes where faculty members would prefer having online exams.

“We don’t want to say that students would have to pay for it,” Smith said. “We’re trying to figure out the financing of how we would allow face-to-face courses to use this service.”

Thorne said university administration will consider how it would work best. That’s a longer-term discussion, she said.

“That’s consideration we will look at later on,” Solis said. “At this particular point, our main interest is to make sure that, as far as the online courses go, we are able to safeguard the integrity of the courses.”