The pandemic has encouraged many firms to use remote proctoring for the first time. Online exams are more convenient and protect both learner and proctor health, but they may unsettle learners who have never taken remote exams.
Alleviating student concerns can help strengthen the integrity of your exams. Students who are anxious or stressed about remote testing may perform poorly—or worse—they may attempt to cheat. A little guidance can help prepare learners for their remote exams so they can approach tests with confidence and integrity.
1. Explain technology needs
Remotely-proctored exams typically require a reliable internet connection, a webcam, and a working microphone. Most remote proctoring systems also require learners to use laptops or desktop computers, not cell phones or tablets.
In our experience the first time the majority of students check their system requirements is immediately before they sit their exam. There is always a chance learners will need to make minor adjustments to their computer settings, particularly if they are using their own personal computers rather than one configured for an organization’s needs. Fiddling around with computer settings can unsettle learners, especially if it doesn’t work on the first try.
Good remote proctoring solutions work using the most popular operating systems (e.g., PC, Mac) and browsers. They should also require only minimal installation privileges that are typical for the average home computer user.
Include an online recommendation that students access remote proctoring software before their exam day, ideally during business hours to ensure access to learner support if required. Also, make sure the number for technical support is prominently displayed at every stage of the exam process.
2. Direct learners to prepare their testing space
Many learners are writing their exams from their home these days, which is a far less controlled environment than a testing center. Remind learners that anything in their room could be on camera so they should remove anything that represents a privacy concern.
Examples might include
- paperwork not related to the exam
- posters with adult images or language
- photographs of children or other family members
- personal items such as laundry or medications
Clarify in writing what is and is not allowed in the room during the exam: notes, notecards, books, and cell phones may need to be left in another room.
3. Set professional expectations
When learners are sitting exams at home, they tend to adopt a more casual dress code and attitude. Remind exam-takers that they will be on camera and their session may be recorded for later review. They should dress and behave as they would for a client meeting.
Ask them to follow a few basic guidelines:
- Dress as you would for taking a classroom exam (e.g. no pyjamas).
- Eating, gum chewing, and other noisy activities are not appropriate.
- Sunglasses, hats, and other headwear that obscures the face should also be avoided.
- Children, pets, phones, and other potential distractions should stay outside the testing space. While remote proctors may make exceptions for some interruptions, they are under no obligation to continue or approve an exam that is interrupted by a third party.
4. Brief learners on testing security measures
Most remotely-proctored exams require learners to follow written guidelines to ensure testing security. Communicate these guidelines before the exam.
Testing security measures may include:
- Logging on with a secure username and password
- Presenting a photo ID to the camera
- Sweeping the room with their webcam before the exam begins
- Remaining on camera at all times
- Refraining from opening any web pages or programs during the exam
- Waiting until the test has been verified before closing the exam window or leaving the room
5. Provide emergency response plans
What if learners lose their internet connection or their power goes out? What if they get sick before or during the exam? What if there’s a fire or other emergency in the space where they’re testing? What if their computer freezes up or tries to restart in the middle of the test?
These questions might seem trivial, but they’re also fuel for exam-takers’ anxiety. Remember, when learners have a lot riding on exams, a little anxiety is normal.
Give learners written emergency response procedures so they know what to do in case of an unexpected event. Although a proctor may be able to provide direction during the exam, anxious students may be more at ease if they know your emergency procedures ahead of time.
6. Identify behaviours indicative of cheating
It may seem counterintuitive to identify potential cheating behaviours, but if testers know you’re watching for a behaviour, they may be less likely to attempt it.
- Such behaviours could include:
- Loudly and slowly reading each question
- Looking off to one side repeatedly
- Tapping, humming, or unusual mouth noises
- Whispering or unexplained voices in the room
- Taking photos, screenshots, or recordings during the exam
7. Encourage learners to practice in a similar environment
New environments can be nerve-racking. Test takers are already anxious enough without the pressure of experiencing the online test environment for the first time. Remove some of the unknowns by giving them a practice exam space that closely resembles the actual test. If you walk them through the login and testing process ahead of time, you’ll make the experience easier for both test takers and proctors on the day of the exam. Allow them to explore the online testing space and try out some practice questions. If it is a timed exam, include an online timer to help them pace their efforts. The more familiar testers are with the exam environment, the less anxious they will be.
What You Gain By Helping Learners Prepare for Remote Exams
Alleviating student anxiety over online exams can create better outcomes for both learners and firms. Learners are more likely to test well and less likely to attempt cheating. Meanwhile, firms get a more accurate picture of their learners’ abilities and knowledge. Contact Oliver to learn more about creating fair and worry-free exam programs.