Remote proctoring (or remote invigilation – the two terms can be and are used interchangeably) is becoming more commonly used in all areas of assessment, and allows candidates to take assessments away from a traditional assessment centre – typically at home, or at work. PeopleCert offer many of their professional qualifications, including PRINCE2, online with assessment offered via online proctoring. Professional bodies such as the Institute of Directors and the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals use TestReach to invigilate their exams, while Chartered Accountants Ireland and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy use ProctorU to invigilate some of their examinations. Remote invigilation is also commonly used by universities in the US, provided by companies such as AIProctor, ProctorU and Examity.
How it works
The majority of the remote invigilation solutions present a similar offer; a web camera on a candidate’s own device is used to monitor them and their test-taking space, either using AI software or with a live invigilator. More information on the two types of remote invigilation can be found below. Although much of the focus on remote proctoring is about prevention of cheating via the use of a webcam and other tools, remote proctoring should be thought of as a broader service – providing all the services in an examination that a traditional proctor/invigilator would provide. This includes checking the identity of the candidate before the exam starts, and answering any queries that the candidate has during or immediately after the exam.
- Allows assessment providers to offer a similar service to their test centre network but in a broader set of locations (and allows testing to continue when candidates can’t travel – for example, during a lockdown such as for coronavirus) and possibly for longer periods during the day up to 24/7 testing.
- Provides a credibly secure solution which may be better than some test centre solutions due primarily to physical separation of candidate and invigilator – making it harder to cheat, and providing better evidence for investigations and appeals
- May offer cost savings over traditional test centres
The above taken together, the key benefit is to permit rapid growth of testing capacity without unacceptable compromises to security.
Remote proctoring providers are typically either specialist remote invigilation technology solution providers (which work alongside e-testing system providers), or test platform and service providers who have integrated remote invigilation capability into their assessment solution.
More information on remote invigilation providers can be found the e-Assessment Association’s remote proctoring special interest group.
Choosing a provider
When choosing a provider, it may be useful to consider:
- Which proctoring solutions (both the technology and the way the service is configured) other similar organisations use and why. Where possible, it is especially useful to speak to organisations who have moved to remote proctoring and hear their experience first-hand.
- What processes are in place to maintain a high standard of training and monitoring of invigilators (if live invigilators are used). As with a traditional invigilated exam, live remote proctoring is only as robust as its invigilators.
- Whether the proctoring solution is part of an examination platform, and whether and how it can be integrated into your current examination solution.
- Where the proctor company is based. Typically, organisations based in Europe are more expensive than those based elsewhere globally.
- For live invigilation (see below), whether to use the proctoring provider’s own invigilators or to source and subcontract invigilators directly. Subcontracting invigilators directly gives you greater control over quality assurance, but proctoring providers may have more experience. You may wish to consider using invigilators from the proctoring provider, and then moving towards sourcing invigilators directly at a later date.
- Some proctoring providers subcontract other companies to provide live invigilators, which may create issues with data security and compliance with legislation.
Live vs recorded
Remote invigilation typically takes one of two forms:
- A candidate takes the test while an invigilator watches them live. An invigilator typically watches multiple candidates at once. As the test is live, the invigilator can pause the test at any time to check, for example to ask the candidate to rotate the webcam. These invigilators are typically provided and trained by the remote proctoring supplier, although some offer the option to use inhouse invigilators. (Proctor Cam by Pearson Vue)
- Footage of a candidate taking the exam is recorded and watched afterwards, either as a random sample, or because there has been a report of an anomaly, for example from through the use of AI fraud detection software. (AI Proctor, ProctorEdu, ProctorFree, ProctorTrack)
Many remote invigilation providers offer both types of proctoring (Examity, Surpass Online Invigilation, ProctorU, Mettl, SmarterProctoring, PSI Bridge).
Live remote proctoring is more similar to a traditional invigilated exam, and candidates often feel more comfortable knowing that there is an invigilator watching their test live. Invigilators can pause live exams to check any suspicious activity in the candidate’s test space, instead of being forced to discard the exam after it has been taken (in the case of a post test review identifying a potential problem), and candidates can ask the invigilators questions. However, live remote proctoring is more expensive, as invigilators can only monitor a certain number of candidates (usually around four) at once. Live proctoring overlaid with a large single test sitting would require a lot of trained proctors to be working simultaneously. It is also much less cost effective if there aren’t multiple people taking the exam at one time, and can be difficult to arrange if the exam is taken by candidates in multiple time zones.
On the other hand, recorded remote proctoring is less costly to operate, as there is no need to train and pay invigilators to observe the exams. Similarly, exams can be scheduled for any time to suit the candidate, rather than when proctors are available. However, suspicious behaviour can only be discovered after the exam has been completed, when it is too late to verify in real-time with the candidate.
In our opinion, recorded proctoring is more appropriate for lower-stakes assessments, as there is less of a need for active intervention by an invigilator during an exam session. High stakes benefit from live remote proctoring to maintain integrity and credibility, despite the higher costs.
For high-stakes exams, a remote proctoring solution is only useful if invigilation can be carried out to a similar standard or better than an in-person exam. If a remotely proctored exam is either less secure or seen to be less secure, candidates and stakeholders will lose trust in the validity of results. Furthermore, if candidates have the choice of taking an exam in a centre or with remote invigilation, it is important to ensure that test centre candidates are not disadvantaged. Anti-fraud measures work in conjunction – either with or without a live proctor – to ensure security in remote invigilation. The following is a non-exhaustive list of anti-fraud features mostly commonly used by remote invigilation providers.
- Browser lockdown prevents candidates from accessing unpermitted material through the internet.
- Image behind the candidate and background sound is monitored, either by a live invigilator or AI software. (the test arrangements may require the test area to be clear and uncluttered)
- Eye trackers monitor whether candidates repeatedly look beyond the camera’s field of vision, i.e. to look at a cheat sheet.
- Biometric testing and a robust registration phase verify the identity of the candidate sitting the assessment, preventing impersonation and/or the use of false documents. For example, Comprobo’s remote proctoring platform, Verify, uses biometrics to check that the candidate has not been substituted during the assessment. It is also able to compare the person sitting the assessment to a reference document such as a passport (typically verified by other means – eg face to face – prior to the assessment).
- A second camera offers a more comprehensive view of the candidate and their test-taking area. For example, ProctorU requires a candidate to connect their smartphone as well as their computer webcam to provide 360-degree coverage during the exam. If the connection to either camera is lost, the exam can be paused or stopped completely.
You may wish to consider the following when deciding if remote invigilation is for you:
- Stakeholder buy in. It may take time to shift the culture, particularly if stakeholders do not have much experience or knowledge of remote proctoring. Some may be nervous about introducing remote proctoring, and the bar in terms of validity and security may therefore be set higher than for centre-based assessments. Similarly, candidates may not be comfortable with someone they cannot see watching them via a webcam. Many early conversations about remote proctoring focus on technology, but the human factors for key participants – test takers, organisational leaders and wider stakeholder groups are equally important, particularly where issues of trust in the security of the assessment is concerned.
- Regulator buy in. You may need approval from one or more regulators, who may also be reluctant to introduce a new proctoring solution.
- Technological requirements for remote proctoring:
- Will candidates have a reliable minimum internet connection?
- Will you be running exams in countries with national firewalls such as China and Saudi Arabia? Some proctoring providers have solutions for this, but it is worth considering.
- Data protection issues. Candidates may need to explicitly agree for their data to be recorded and stored before they can take the assessment, particularly since GDPR regulations were introduced. For some proctoring solutions, live invigilator may need the ability to take over a candidate’s device, and individuals and organisations may be reluctant to approve this and other software plugins.
Is remote proctoring right for my exams?
Remote proctoring may be the right solution for your exams if any of the following are true:
- Your exams are currently held in test centres, with a high cost per candidate
- Your exams are taken by candidates in remote locations
- Your exams are high stakes but are only taken by a few candidates.
- You want to reduce the burden on candidates of travelling to an exam centre
- You have considerable untapped potential for additional assessments which could be unlocked by alternative assessment options.
- If you are currently running high stakes exams for large volumes of candidates, an exam centre may be the best solution, as live remote proctoring would require a high number of proctors working simultaneously.
 The term “Proctor” is more commonly used in American English. It is synonymous with “Invigilator” in British English.
 Although in theory it would be possible to use remote proctoring for handwritten paper exams, all the examples and approaches we discuss assume that the candidate is taking the assessment on-screen. There are many technical solutions for on-screen assessment – these are outside the scope of this paper.