E-Proctoring: Understanding the debate about invigilating remote exams

May 12, 2020

There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about the rush for secondary and post-secondary institutions to implement digital solutions for proctoring of remote and online exams. In this post, I share helpful resources, articles and news to help you better understand the current debate about what’s good, what’s bad and what’s ugly. This post is not meant to be exhaustive, but instead to curate and share some of the key resources I have found particularly helpful.

Back to the future

Interestingly, the debate is not entirely new. In 2018, Rory McCorkle predicted more students would be taking exams remotely in the future. Welcome to 2020, where the Coronavirus has changed everything.

Students stressed out

Math students at Laurier University were described as furious after their department required them to buy external web cams for their exams. Rebecca Heilweil shares the perspective of University of Washington student, Marium Raza, who shared concerns about the lack of transparency about how their recorded video will be used or who will see it. The heightened use of surveillance to monitor students’ every move is a recurring theme in these stories.

Faculty disgruntled

Faculty are also concerned about surveillance and an invasion of students’ privacy. References to George Orwell’s 1984 have been made in more than one news article, such as this one by Colleen Flaherty in Inside Higher Ed, and this one by Shawn Hubler in the New York Times.

Michael Sankey of Griffith University has described the rapid move to e-exams as driving headlong towards a cliff.

Human rights considerations

An article in the Washington Post describes how some students get so stressed out by the heightened surveillance of remote proctoring that they throw up into their waste bins while on camera because they have been told they cannot leave the room during the exam. (This begs the question: Is there a human rights violation here? I mean, shouldn’t students be allowed to vomit into a toilet?)

Concordia University has included guidance in their rollout of e-proctoring that: “Any proctored online exam that goes beyond two hours may include a break for students.” They are basically sending a message to faculty to have exams of a reasonable and humane duration, which is a good place to start.

Glitches in the matrix

A recent news story out of Australia detailed how over 250 candidates taking a TAXAU120 required special consideration after their remote exam provider, ProctorU reported that they experienced “a momentary connectivity issue”, leading to them being disconnected from their exam.

Hacking the system

There are ample resources available to students about how to beat or hack e-proctoring software. This post talks about how easy it is for students to load up a virtual machine to beat the system. There are also plenty of online videos dedicated to showing students how to beat e-proctoring system. Let’s be clear: There is no completely foolproof way to ensure students do not cheat on exams. There will always be a small percentage of students who spend more time and effort trying to find creative ways to cheat instead of putting that same effort into preparing for their exams.

Resources: Webinar Recordings

A couple of publicly accessible webinar recordings you might find useful are:

Academic Integrity in Online Exams – This session was presented by Tod Denham and the team at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) Open Learning did for us at the University of Calgary.

Implementing remotely invigilated online exams at scale, presented by Kylie Day as part of the  Transforming Assessment Webinar Series is also worth a watch.

Additional Resources

E-CampusOntario – ProctorTrack Instructor Support Guide (open access pressbook)

Fourteen Simple Strategies to Reduce Cheating on Online Examinations – Excellent article by Stephanie Smith Budhai

What the research says

For those interested in scholarly perspectives on the topic, a couple of journal articles worth looking up include:

Cramp et al. (2019) – Lessons learned from implementing remotely invigilated online exams.

González-González et al. (2020) – Implementation of E-Proctoring in Online Teaching: A Study about Motivational Factors

I will update this post as I collect and curate more information that I think will be helpful to educators and administrators as we learn more about this brave new world of remote learning during COVID-19. (All literary and cultural references to sci fi and dystopian future(s) are most definitely intentional).

Related posts:

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

Last updated: 8 June 2020


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