Happenings

What is ‘Remote Invigilation/Proctoring’?

1 Dec 2020

‘Remote Proctoring’ refers to the use of technology to oversee an examination from a distance. ‘Proctoring’ is the term generally used in the United States, while ‘Invigilation’ is what we tend to use in Ireland.

The concept stems from a belief that students taking exams online require some degree of invigilation, in the same way they would be invigilated during an on-campus examination.

‘Remote Invigilation’ has become synonymous with a particular range of software solutions that provide a wide range of solutions. These include:

  • checking the identity of a student;
  • real-time monitoring through webcams of students taking exams;
  • review of recorded exam sessions;
  • controlling student machine settings; and
  • reporting suspicious activity of students during remote exams.

 

These activities can be carried out by human invigilators sitting in front of a bank of screens or in some case by artificial intelligence systems. The costs of operating these systems vary depending on what is required by the client.

I believe though that we need to reclaim the term ‘remote invigilation’. We might imagine that there are lighter touch options that do not require the implementation of additional software. For example, a Lecturer may ask students to check in during an exam using MS Teams to confirm their identity. You could also ask students to record themselves taking an exam using Panopto. You could also require students to use Canvas’ Ask My Lecturer a specific Question function during a timed Quiz. All of these are a form of remote invigilation in my view.

What about Remote Invigilation Software?

 
Many of the issues that people raise around remote invigilation tend to be about Remote Invigilation software, and most of these need careful consideration. We do not currently run remote invigilation software in UCC. A Google Search will quickly point you towards a myriad of articles naming challenges and providing student and staff testimonials of some very serious issues.

 

Privacy and Data Protection – probably the biggest concern relates to the invasion of privacy. Apart from students not wanting invigilators to look into their homes and around their study space, there is also a concern about what data AI is gathering in addition to monitoring students during exams. So we need to ask what data is being collected, under what conditions, for what purpose and how is it being protected?

Adding Anxiety – many students report the invasiveness of online invigilation adds to their anxiety levels, as they worry that they could be red flagged for simple behaviours such as looking away to think, a facial tick, etc.

Bias in face recognition software – there has been a lot of articles online about how skin tone for instance can influence how the artificial intelligence aspect of these platforms interprets people’s facial expressions. And there are books about how some software as it develops profiles and is used more, becomes biased towards certain racial, gender or socioeconomic groups.

 

Reliability – installing new software on local devices with a wide variety of operating systems with varying degrees of bandwidth is challenging and needs to be supported. Does it always work – what about those students who like to gaze into space while thinking, students using a second device, other ways of communication, etc. In all but the most controlling of situations, students will find a way to get around a system, if they truly wish to cheat.

Costs – prices vary depending on what is required, but costs are calculated on a per-student or per-exam basis. While there is a cost saving associated with not running physical exams on campus and this funding can be used to go towards remote invigilation software, the sustainability of this approach needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Where to now?

Use of remote invigilation needs to be carefully considered by staff. As we provide learning and assessment online, consideration should be given to assessment design:

  • Is it possible to move away from a traditional exam and provide other opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge and competence across learning outcomes?
  • Where the only way to test knowledge is through an MCQ-style quiz, then randomised question banks provide a way to ensure no two quizzes are the same.
  • Learning analytics provides a way for staff to identify outliers in performance – if a student suddenly achieves a very high grade in a summative assessment exercise while previous continuous assessment performance was of a lower standard, then this might point towards something that warrants further investigation.
  • If remote invigilation is required, then would lighter touch options using existing technologies and UCC staff suffice?

It should be acknowledged though that there are areas of third level education involving external accrediting bodies, where there are very specific requirements to assure them of examination integrity. In these cases, the solutions above may not suffice and the only option may be the use of remote invigilation software where on-campus exams are not possible.

 

UCC does not currently have an agreement in place with providers of remote invigilation software, although a pilot project should be in place during 2021 for two schools who require this for professional accreditation purposes.


For any staff considering remote invigilation, consider the following questions:

  • What are the problems you are trying to address? Can some of them be addressed by other solutions, e.g. having a UCC staff member check IDs with students on Teams during an exam? Randomised pools and question options? Etc.
  • Are there staff available to oversee any remote invigilation needs? If the solution is to go with new software, then you need to consider ownership and management of a procurement process as well as the timelines necessary to complete this. IT Services’ Project Management Office (https://www.ucc.ie/en/it/projects/) can provide details on this.
  • Is budget available to pay for any additional arising costs on a recurring basis?
  • Are there ethical issues involved in what you are considering?
  • Are there legal or GDPR issues involved?
  • Are there policies in place to address any issues that might be raised because of remote invigilation? Consider for instance what level of evidence might be required in the event of a suspected instance of cheating.
  • Who will support staff and students with any technology involved, and how will this be funded?

Remote Invigilation is something many UCC disciplines will need to address in the near future. However, it is unlikely there will be a need for a university-wide single solution, given the diversity of demand. Disciplines will need to examine their own needs and consider their options. For any school considering remote invigilation, please think about the questions above and feel free to get in touch with the Centre for Digital Education or IT Services if you wish to discuss it further.

For more on this story contact:

Tom O'Mara on: tom.omara@ucc.ie.

Centre for Digital Education

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