Online exams are gaining ground rapidly, and rightfully so. They are cost-effective, time, resource-efficient, and convenient for all the stakeholders too.
While online examinations might not completely replace offline exams, they can surely augment the online assessment endeavours of educational institutions and organisations.
However, with the convenience of online exams, there are some challenges that administrators need to take into consideration.
Conducting an exam with technology can be easy, but it also poses security risks for those who administer or monitor them- especially hackers looking at compromising sensitive data, which could lead to identity theft!
Using technology, you can assess candidates related to a particular subject/ topic. Traditional pen and paper-based exams are replaced with computer-enabled digital assessments, which can simplify many administrative activities for the institute.
What all are the challenges of an Online Exam?
Well, before we can start with the challenges being faced with Online Exams, let me tell you technology has come far away and has developed solutions for many of the challenges already.
Online Exams offer the freedom to appear for the same from any remote location of your choice.
Insecure Online exam provides an opportunity for candidates to take help from external sources while attempting the exam online. If proper security measures are not taken, then online examination implementation may result in increased activity of malpractice.
Freedom to browse the web and copy
An Online Exam from a remote location sounds more like an invitation for an Open Book Test (the same one that we used to appear for when we were in school).
A candidate might open any source of their choice and copy the answer content within minutes.
Well, you, as an exam controller, don’t have any control over this malpractice, do you? Frankly, an Online Exam seems like an open ground to cheat and attempt malpractice against the candidate who is appearing for the same.
Here are 6 ways to secure your online exams.
1. Video Proctoring: Live streaming of Online Exam
The greatest advantage that Online Exams have ever offered is remote exam conduction; it allows the candidate to appear for the exam from any remote location of their choice.
Parallel to this great advantage, the process encountered many shortcomings in terms of security. Minimising the increasing rate of malpractices became inevitable with the help of Remote Proctored Online Exams.
What does Online Proctoring mean?
Proctoring refers to the activity of supervising or monitoring an examination activity. Similarly, Online Proctoring refers to the supervision or invigilation of an Online Exam from a remote location.
Online Proctoring extends the freedom to invigilate from a remote location to the invigilator; in other words, the invigilator becomes a remote proctor and ensures the security and integrity of the Online Exam.
What is Video Proctoring?
To be very specific, Video Proctoring is a mechanism that uses live video streaming or recorded video as a medium to ensure the security and integrity of an Online Exam.
Video Proctoring uses the web camera mounted on the candidates’ computer as the source to record the video for the proctoring activity.
How Video Proctoring works?
Video Proctoring works parallel to the Online Exam process. When a candidate is all set to appear for an Online Exam, he/she needs to log in to the system on which the Invigilator or Remote Proctor is already logged in from the other end.
Initially, the candidate has to complete the formal identity verification process, where the remote proctor shall confirm the identity of the candidate.
The proctor would verify the candidates’ identity against the identity proofs submitted at the time of registration.
Post the successful verification session; the candidate can proceed with the Online Exam.
Video Proctoring activity can be executed with two different sets of actions.
1. Video Proctoring with Live Streaming:
The remote proctor would continuously monitor the remote candidate appearing for the exam through completely live video streaming.
If the proctor notices any suspicious activities or any signs of malpractice through the visuals being displayed, he/she can directly prompt the candidate and holds the right to suspend the Online Exam conduction at any point.
2. Video Proctoring with Recorded Video:
In this very case, the proctor can go offline once the verification is done. The webcam mounted on the computer of the candidate would record the complete video for the Online Exam activity.
The recorded video would be saved on a cloud server and would be available for evaluation to the proctor at any later point in time.
The proctor would watch the complete video for the Online Exam and confirm the integrity and security of the process. Video Proctoring eases out a lot of Online Exam Security hassles and also saves a considerable amount of time and money to you.
2. Image Proctoring: Clicks pictures during Online Exam
Image Proctoring is yet another mechanism of Online Proctoring which helps you conduct secured online exams under limited internet connectivity situations.
What is Image Proctoring?
Image Proctoring is a lightweight Online/Remote Proctoring mechanism, which uses a web camera to capture images of the candidate appearing for the Online Exam after a certain interval of time.
The proctor can later analyse the bank of images captured during image proctoring activity to ensure the security of the Online Exam.
When is Image Proctoring essential?
If you wish to conduct secured online exams for a locality where no stable internet connection is available or the bandwidth is unstable, Image proctoring can be the most essential security mechanism to prevent malpractices during an Online Exam.
With Image Proctoring, the system would capture a set of 60 to 90 images based on the time or duration of the exam.
Let’s consider if the stipulated time for the exam is 90 mins; then you can arrange a setup where the system would capture 90 images of the candidate, an image per minute.
The proctor would access this set of images stored on a cloud server at a later point in time. And the proctor can opt-out to report the candidate, if he/she happens to attempt any suspicious activity throughout the captured images of the Online Exam.
3. Face Recognition: Candidate's Identity Verification
With the mobile phone unlocking feature, Face Recognition has touch-based every individual’s perception towards AI and technology.
Similarly, Face Recognition technology can easily be paired with Video or Image Proctoring, and we have a prominent solution figured out to cut off the disguised face malpractices permanently.
How Face Recognition would function for securing online exams?
A complete software empowered with Video/Image proctoring and AI-powered Face Recognition technology would work as a bridge between Online Examination Process and Online Exam Security.
The Online Examination Process remains all the same; the system would stores all the identity verification details at the time of the initial verification process.
The system would match and compare the photo of the candidate appearing for the exam with AI-powered Face Recognition, and allow the candidate to proceed with the Online Exam.
The Video/ Image proctoring mechanism would do its job by recording video/ capturing images after a fixed interval of time.
Ultimately, AI-powered Face Recognition would compare the face of the candidate appearing for the online exam with the I Card or photo submitted, thoroughly and throughout the video recorded/ for all the images captured.
Any deviation observed in the face of the candidate would be considered malpractice and would be reported.
No offence, there would be a full-fledged core report which would substantially stand the ground for the malpractices reported.
The perfect combination of technologies could turn out to be the best solution to secure online exams and keep them 100% free from malpractices.
4. Audio Proctoring: Ensuring 100% cheating free Online exam
Alongside Video Streaming and Image Capturing, Audio or Voice capturing is an equally essential factor to be considered while ensuring the security of the Online Exam.
With the growing technology, cheating practices have also grown to an extent. Audio Proctoring is one such preventive measure to consider when it comes to seizing the complete security for an Online Exam.
What is Audio Proctoring?
Audio Proctoring is a mechanism that records each bit of voice, sound or noise from the environment where the remote candidate appears for the Online Exam.
The invigilator or proctor can later analyse the audio recorded for suspicious voice notes or distortions.
How does Audio Proctoring secure online exams?
Only visuals might not be able to justify the security of Online Exams. This is why we need a mechanism like Audio Proctoring, which can help us analyse the Online Exam environment for audio or voice malpractices.
Fair chances are there that the candidate appearing for the exam might appear sober in the video and image proctoring, but he/she might be seeking some audio/voice-based help to attempt cheating in the Online Exam.
The audio proctoring mechanism would make sure that the online exam is conducted in a 100% secured and controlled remote environment.
Even the slightest deviations in terms of sound waves would be recorded with Audio Proctoring. The proctor would have full-fledged access to the audio associated with every candidate who appeared for the online exam through the cloud server. The proctor can wisely analyse and identify the malpractices encountered.
It is also possible for the proctor to have video communication with candidate to warn or instruct about exam rules. Direct Video communication can be done in any language preferred by the candidate.
5. Secure Browser: Bars the candidate from browsing the internet during Online Exam
Online Exams and full-fledged internet access might sound like an open ground for cheating to the candidates who are appearing for the online exam. But, it could turn out to be a nightmare for them with Secure Browser technology.
What is secure browser technology?
A secure browser is nothing but a preventive mechanism that doesn’t allow the user to open an additional browsing window other than the one through which he/she is connected with the online exam activity
How can a Secure Browser help you secure the online exam process?
Online Exams are supposed to be conducted in an environment that offers good internet connectivity. But, to achieve the desired security and integrity with the Online Exams, a secure browser is just the right approach to follow.
Once a candidate starts with the online exam, he/she will not be allowed to access any extra tab or browsing window other than the one through which he/she appears for the exam.
If the candidate attempts to open an additional browsing window, an immediate notification will be sent to the exam controller sitting on the other end. The exam controller holds the authority to suspend the online exam for the candidate who just tried to breach security enforcement.
On the other hand, we are also allowed to make such a provision where the system would voluntarily warn the candidate for the defined number of times on attempting the window switching.
If the candidate continues the same behaviour post being warned a set number of times, the system will automatically suspend the Online Exam for him/her. The Secure Browser technique is a simple way to add security mechanisms to your online exam process.
6. Audit Logging: Monitors each click with minute details of the Online Exam
Audit logging technology keeps track of the entire user activity with the help of the IP address of the user.
Audit Logging is a very powerful mechanism that tracks the user for each activity that he/she performs. May it be session Log in/Log Out or may it be the navigation between the questions of the Online exam, everything is tracked.
These kinds of logs are recorded for each of the candidates who are appearing for the Online Exam and are accessible to the proctor at a later point in time.
System can also log how much time candidate was moved away from exam window. Advance screen recording activity can enable invigilator to view entire activities of the candidate during exam process.
The proctor can opt-out to analyse the Audit Logs for any candidate. If he/she observes any suspicious activity amongst the logs recorded, it can be immediately reported and counteraction could be taken against the candidate.
Bonus Tip Control Access of Exams on Specific Device
Candidates should not be allowed to appear for their examinations without logging in through Secured Browser.
If candidates are not logging in through Secured Browser, they should not be allowed to login at all. You can control access to exams on secure browser using advance settings
While conducting online exams you can not ignore security aspect of the implementation.
Using innovative security mechanism like Remote Proctoring, Audit logging , secure Browser you can ensure security of the solution. Using Artificial intelligence you can identify, detect cheating patterns.
About the Author
Swapnil has experience of more than 15 years in the Information Technology sector. He has been working on digital platforms in the education sector. Swapnil is an avid reader and writes articles on technology and leading developments in the education and IT sectors.
Swapnil is the founder of Splashgain, an Education Technology company from India working on various innovative EdTech platforms for examinations, proctoring solutions, digital admission process and more. Splashgain has been working with many educational institutes and universities for AI-powered innovations and solutions to transform the education sector.
Splashgain has also filed a patent for an innovative product based on AI.
Online examinations are gaining ground rapidly. Previously online examinations were conducted mostly in an objective manner. However, with the introduction of technological advancements and innovations, online examinations can now be subjective in nature too. Oral/viva examinations, remote interviews, communication skill assessments, coding, and other technological expertise can also be done through online examinations.
Online examinations come with a plethora of advantages. To start with, these can be conducted with an internet-connected device anytime, anywhere. No infrastructure and logistics costs are involved with online examinations. These are reliable, and scalable in nature, and cost-effective too.
Compared to offline tests that require a physical premise, infrastructure, and other logistics, online tests require just an internet-connected device. Examiners can set up tests remotely; students can appear with ease; remote proctoring can be leveraged to ensure that the examinations are conducted in a cheat-free environment.
Proctored exams enabled by cutting-edge online exam management software ensure that students are prohibited from using any background applications, smartphones, and other smart devices, etc.
Users during online exams are instructed to undergo face recognition, user authorisation, and a host of processes, and they are aware that they are being remotely monitored. With remote proctoring, invigilators can track the real-time activities of the candidates with audio/video recording. They have the authorisation to terminate the online exam if the candidates are found to be involved in any sort of malpractice.