There has been a rise in the number of online exams and assessments conducted nowadays. Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, private learning centers and public educational institutions are forced to stop in-class sessions and adapt to online learning. Social distancing and lockdown restrictions enforced by many countries also mean that exams and assessments are now conducted remotely on the Internet.
The new coronavirus outbreak is not the only factor that contributes to the rise of online learning. Even before the pandemic, research has forecasted that the online education market will reach $350 billion by 2025 worldwide due to the growth of flexible learning technologies in both the corporate and education sectors. It’s safe to say that online learning is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
This new way of learning is beneficial because it allows people to gain and develop new skills easily, efficiently, and from the comforts of their own home. However, it’s good to know the difference between in-class and online learning, especially when it comes to the challenges of facilitating online proctored exams.
The security problem with online exams
When conducting online exams, major security concerns are:
Authentication for the students.
When it comes to in-person exams, an exam facilitator can verify the identity of students. With online exams, it may be challenging to authenticate the students so that only the right parties can take the exams.
Fairness in exam duration.
During in-person exams, a test facilitator or a proctor can monitor and remind students to finish the exam within the allocated time. With online exams, it is challenging to ensure everyone has the same amount of time to work on the questions. The students may not be able to access the questions at the same time.
Leakage of confidential exam questions.
It can be challenging to come up with questions for exams. With online exams, students can screenshot or capture the questions and keep a copy or upload to the internet, causing leakage of the confidential exam content.
What are the possible solutions?
All solutions have pros and cons. Therefore, it is essential to find the most feasible one that fits your needs. Every learning center might have a slightly different approach to choosing a solution to conduct online exams; let’s take a look at the options and criteria.
Exam Proctoring Software:
Purpose-built solution. Complex and expensive?
An exam proctoring software is a specialized software designed for online exams that enable students to take a test online in a remote location. During the exam, the student is monitored, typically with the help of a webcam, mic, and access to the computer screen to identify cheating-like behavior during online exams.
The range of features that exam proctoring software have may include ID verification, automated monitoring, computer lockdown, and professional review. However, even with all the security features, there is no guarantee that it can fully prevent cheating.
There are creative ways to cheat during online exams, such as using small Bluetooth-powered devices that are practically undetectable. Students have also been known to use screen sharing and mirroring by having a third-party login from another device to cheat.
Another factor to consider is the technical complexities that can cause delays during exams. For instance, some software is only compatible with a specific internet browser or operating system. Not to mention, they may require each student to sign up for an account and download additional plugins to do the test.
Furthermore, the price for an exam proctoring software can be high depending on the length and frequency of the exam and the required level of proctoring. For instance, Examity’s online proctoring solution starts at $17/hour per student, including live authentication and proctoring. Other alternatives to other exam proctoring software include Proctorio and ProctorU.
|Evaluation Criteria||Exam Proctoring Software|
|Security||Specifically designed for online exams. The security considerations are generally all met. |
Authentication: Advanced facial detection technology & automated verification.
Fairness: Customizable admin setting to ensure the same exam duration for all students.
Leakage: Extra steps required for students to cheat and leak the exam questions to others.
|Ease of Use||Complex with a range of features to choose from and may not be compatible on all devices.|
|Cost||Varies. Certain solutions can be very expensive as the number of students, exam length and frequency increases.|
|Getting Started||Varies. Some solutions can take a long time to evaluate and get used to. It may be unsuitable for individual teachers or smaller organizations who need it quick and easy.|
Email + Webcam:
A quick hack but not secure.
Another quick and easy solution is by using email and Webcam to conduct online proctored exams. The way it works is you observe students for suspicious behavior via Webcam when sending the exam questions by email to minimize cheating. You can also instruct students to show the surrounding area where the test is going to be conducted to ensure there are no hidden devices and no third-party assistance involved.
Combined together, using email and webcam is a relatively simple and affordable way to conduct online exams. You would only need an email account, computer that has a webcam, and an active internet connection–things that you probably already have. There is no need to pay for additional software subscriptions, and you can usually use a conferencing solution for the webcam.
Furthermore, privacy concerns during webcam sessions are another factor to consider when a third party misuses the audio and video recording from the webcam session. Lastly, observing many students on a small computer screen at the same time might be inefficient, especially in identifying suspicious behavior.
Although this is a viable solution, security is the main drawback for this option. Authentication may be a challenge as emails can be received and opened without protection. It will be difficult to let everyone have exactly the same amount of time to complete tests. There’s no easy way to protect the files from leakage.
|Evaluation Criteria||Email + Webcam|
|Security||Extremely low. Prone to cheating and content leakage. |
Authentication: Face-to-face video calls can be a tedious process with a lot of students.
Fairness: You can make sure and notify everyone to finish the test at the same time; however, this will not be perfect.
Leakage: Very easy for the students to cheat, and the exam content can be downloaded and redistributed.
|Ease of Use||Very simple to use with no additional tools or systems needed.|
|Cost||Very low cost and can be free with no paid subscription or account needed.|
|Getting Started||Very easy and straightforward.|
Email + Webcam + Document Security:
A viable option?
There is an additional solution that you can add when using email and Webcam to conduct online exams to make it more secure. You can consider a document security solution where you can send confidential course materials and exam content securely.
A document security solution is an integrated solution that combines compliant document security with a wide range of features to help you retain control of your unique content and better prevent leakage of information that might compromise the integrity of the exam.
You can still use the Webcam to monitor the students and send the exam questions in the form of document attachments via email. The difference is, your document attachments are now encrypted, trackable, and you have control over who can access them and for how long.
Students will find it more challenging to leak the content exam with the restrict downloading and forwarding features. You can also set the exam documents to self-destruct at a particular time and activate the screen shield to discourage the screenshot.
However, there are still some drawbacks, as this method is not suitable for exams that require real-time editing or interactive functions. It also doesn’t have a face-to-face proctoring feature, which means you still have to rely on the Webcam to monitor the test-takers.
|Evaluation Criteria||Email + Webcam + Document Security|
|Security||Mitigated. Sending exam documents are secure and trackable. |
Authentication: You can set it so that only the right parties can access the exam documents.
Fairness: You can also set the exam documents to expire at a certain date and time.
Leakage: Exam content is encrypted and copy protected.
|Ease of Use||Fairly simple to use with one additional email plugin required.|
|Cost||Quite cheap with different tiers to choose from.|
|Getting Started||Fairly easy, quick, and straightforward.|
Digify Document Security can help to mitigate security considerations.
As a learning institution, your unique content sets you apart from others, and you cannot afford to have it leaked and copied without consent. A document security solution such as Digify can help protect your unique content from the wrong hands when sending confidential documents.
Authentication: Only the right parties have access to the exam document.
Digify’s access control allows you to limit who can access the files and revoke permissions anytime. You can add additional email verification where anyone accessing your document will need to enter a unique code sent to their email address.
Fairness: Everyone can have the same amount of time to work on the questions.
You can ensure fairness on the exam duration using Digify’s self-destruct feature. It is a mechanism where the document will automatically destroy itself after a predefined set of circumstances has occurred. Unlike expiry, the timer will start counting down only when the document is opened. For instance, to conduct a 2-hour test, set the exam documents to self-destruct automatically 2 hours after students open the files.
Leakage: Preventing unauthorized distribution and reducing the view of the questions bank.
Ensure copy protection of your exam documents with restrict forwarding, downloading, and printing features. To further increase copy protection, you can also use Digify’s screen shield technology. It is a feature that helps discourage screenshots by reducing the viewable screen area with a watermarked filter. In this case, you can reduce the viewable screen area of the questions bank with a watermarked filter, so that only one question can be viewed at any one time.
Third-Party Assistance: Logins from multiple devices are recorded.
Digify’s tracking logs can give you helpful information, such as suspicious locations and IP address. When you let students know about this feature, they are less likely to cheat and seek third-party assistance during the online exams.
There are other features from Digify that you might find interesting, check out our features section for more information.
An exam proctoring software could be the solution to conducting online exams if you have the time and resources. It is specially designed so that students can take online exams securely. However, it would be best to consider the technical complexities and the high costs associated with the solution.
A quick and creative solution would be combining email and Webcam to conduct online exams. Digify Document Security can mitigate security concerns and help in maintaining the integrity of your online exams while preventing content leakage.