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Online Exam Proctoring

Increasing the security of the exam environment and Online Exam proctoring can definitely be seen as a gesture to convey the institute's seriousness about the exam. Whereas honestly for students, Online exam proctoring through use of technology in an online exam scenario where the student answers the exam from his home or his comfort zone, can never achieve effectiveness comparable to manned proctoring inside the exam hall and thus acts only as a deterrent, effective only for the candidates who take their exam seriously.

System Based Proctoring Features

These exam proctoring features control the local examination environment inside the computer. Since the examination is being conducted at multiple platforms like Mobile App, open browser, mobile Browser, dedicated secure browser, not all features are effective on all platforms. Mobile App and Dedicated App browser are supposed to be most secure platform for access restrictions, content security and exam proctoring.

Certain System based local exam proctoring features mainly focussed on navigation control are:

Manned Online Proctoring Features

These are proctoring features that are used to keep the student under the eye of a human proctor sitting at a distance. There are certain online proctoring features like Photo Capture, Voice Capture, Video Capture that reach out the information of the environment at the student end to the examiner end by execute online information gathering and transfer. The examiner may continuously monitor the information or may monitor at random intervals.

Certain Online Proctoring Features often demanded by institutes are:

Balanced and Effective Online Exam Proctoring

First and the foremost thing to be understood and accepted about the effectiveness of Online Exam proctoring is that- a candidate who is all bent for cheating, he cannot be stopped by whatever technical means adopted for online proctoring so long as he is answering the exam from his comfort zone.

Online exam proctoring for home based exams does not make much sense as students may find one or the creative ways of cheating when the student answers the exam from his home or his comfort zone.

Moreover, if the student is cheating in school assessment examination, he only will be negatively affected.

When the exams are really critical and where the proctoring has to be actually strict, then such exams are conducted by inviting the student to a proctored examination center which has special arrangements and even human proctors.

If a student is cheating in a highly competitive examination for selection to higher education course or an important recruitment examination for selection to a job, then cheating in such examinations may affect the other participants negatively and the cheating participant may gain. Here proctoring is much needed and must be applied.

But if an exam on one hand is already not as important that you are allowing the student to answer from home knowing that home environment can never be proctored as strictly as examination hall, then this reality must be accepted and proctoring features should be used only to a reasonable extent.

Online exam proctoring activity exerts extra load on server resources and internet. So it is is not of much avail to apply technology intensive online proctoring means for regular school level assessment examinations.
In order to strike a perfect balance of effort and outcome, online exam proctoring should only be used for highly competitive examinations of high importance.

Induction of demo online examination prior to the final examination can be a smart step to ensure that all proctoring features are working effectively on users' computer.

Limitations and Contradictions of Online Proctoring

Although all the required online proctoring features are technically doable, but all that is possible through use or technology may not be practical or feasible. Certain proctoring features though possible technically, are so data and resource intensive that they conflict with the other demands and provisions of conducting a smooth online exam.

- Mic and camera continuously on throughout examination period for live invigilation.

- No login without camera and mic device.

- Proctor can enable audio and talk to student during live video watch etc.

Institutes demand these online proctoring features in various combinations and degrees.
So we have to strike a balance between the expected gain and the increased complexity of the system and cost of execution.

On one hand, the inclination is towards using App to conduct internet independent exams because there is shortage of consistent and abundant internet for many users. The very inclination towards mobile devices and App is due to unavailability of Laptop/computers with most users, while smartphones are abundantly available with almost all of the users.

There is also demand for the examination to be light so that even students with old mobiles and poor internet connectivity should have smooth experience. This is mostly the situation in large scale national level competitive exams which have to equally cater all candidates of all socio-economic classes and from all locations across the country where good internet is a far cry.

When moved to mobile App, we are activating airplane mode to keep other internet activity under check. Then on the other hand demanding to record and upload continuous sound or video is conflicting and over ambitious and expecting to further burden the process is contradicting.

> The exam protocol is to download test paper and enable airplane mode in App, to avoid disturbance in test experience due to internet inconsistency. On the other hand this requirement will need constant net connectivity and high bandwidth, and so it goes totally against what is prevalent as a general provision in the examination system and so cant be served even if required by handful cases.

> It is also not feasible because it will impose heavy system and internet requirements at student's end. At one hand the need is to make system as light as possible so that participation can be maximized even for those using old mobiles and poor internet and on the other hand these requirements are too demanding that will erode the test participation.

Solution is Possible, But not feasible.

Zoom is already integrated to our e-learning system. We are working on integrating Zoom with our exam system. This Exam-Zoom integration shall also be done by January,
Still that will demand higher paid accounts of Zoom otherwise it will allow only first 40 minutes of proctoring.

This solution will almost enable realtime proctoring. It will allow for continuous video and sound availability to the distant proctor and also allow the proctor to talk to the student when required.

But even if we provide a technical solution, will the institute spend lakhs on Zoom for proctoring of one exam?
Such typically demanding features are not feasible to be implemented for large mass examinations.
If the exam is too critical and volumes are low, then only it makes a feasible solution.

Critical evaluation of feasibility of certain security features demanded by institutes

Photo Capture

Photo capture of the examinee as a means of exam proctoring can be used under reasonable premises. So capturing candidate photo at start or at end or once or twice even amidst the exam is reasonably ok. Too much image capture like capturing every few seconds or capturing the examinne photo on every question load, or capturing of image at high frequency every few minutes will generate much data and require to locally store image data and that will demand more storage space which may not be available of certain user devices. More image data will also need more internet to upload. More data uploading will hamper the uploading process of other users if the test is conducted on a server with optimal resources suitable for upload of test. If the server bandwidth and resources are increased to accommodate the increased transfer and storage load for image, sound,video transfer, then the cost of server hosting will increase, which might not be a welcome proposition for all institutes especially in contrast to the outcome of the reason for increase in cost.

Continuous Recording of Sound & Video

Recording Sound through microphone and Recording the video for the entire examination duration are also questionable suggestions in terms of productivity and effectiveness. Technically, even if it is possible to keep the microphone turned-on or record video of the entire exam, still practically who will ever carefully listen to recordings of 300-500 students for every 2-3 hour exam? Same goes for the recorded videos and recorded mouse clicks.

Such proctoring features, might produce strong evidence, but are most likely to remain unused or unjustly used and so even the users have a sense that there are very rare chances of being caught by such mechanism. And if the examination itself is a low importance class assessment exam, then there is not much stake even if caught cheating. So students don't mind blatantly ignoring such proctoring features as notorious drivers loudly ignore red light signal in very early morning or very late night hours.

So, that, what cannot be practically and effectively used till the end should not be introduced in the process. This not only makes the process cumbersome, and costly but on the other hand also makes the system less reliable and invites the students to more fearlessly bypass the system.

Restrict Login if Camera or Mic not working

What if the mic is working but sound quality is so poor that it does not help. Is it then worth to allow students whose mics are working or to make the system complicated and data intensive for very little outcome with no sureity?

Stopping the exam if the candidate moves out of the camera screen will need to locally install face matrix reader and Artificial Intelligence module and demand immense processing power for the computer processor without affecting the test answering process.

Cross Platform Uniformity of Content Security and Online Exam Proctoring features

The online exam proctoring and security features must be adopted with balance and uniformity across various platforms. So if you have allowed the same exam on multiple platforms, then there is no point in forcing a resource intensive monitoring or restriction which works only on one platform and allows bypass on the other platform.

Continuous Tracking of the Mouse Movement

This feature will work only in computer browsers. In mobile devices, there is no mouse movement. So it is pointless to collect massive data, tracking which is much costly as compared to the outcome.

Excel, calculator or other external program not allowed

Application switching can be restricted in Browser but not on App. As we have seen that there is no mobile r mobile App in which one App can forcibly stay open in front and cannot be swapped with other Apps. It is easily possible to switch Apps in mobile devices and Playstore policies do not support Apps that block other Apps. Even in Browser this control can be limited to generic windows App.

Out of the above mentioned features, only image capture and upload at the start or end of the exam is one optimal approach which can be adopted in balance with other needs.

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