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The need and opportunity for online proctoring

In recent years, online distance education has grown significantly as a result of advances in technology-enhanced learning and pedagogy. There is a growing portfolio of online degree programmes offered by many institutions across Europe. As online education grows however, it is evident that some of its potential benefits are yet to be fully realised. An important issue is the accreditation of online assessment and specifically a secure means of conducting safe, valid and reliable remote examinations. As a consequence, in those cases where formal examination is a required element of the course assessment, students need to physically attend their educational institution or a local approved facility in order to take the examination. This can be a costly, time consuming and inefficient process, and undermines some of the potential benefits of online distance education.

What is online proctoring

Online proctoring encompassess the technology and services by which exam-takers can take secure and invigilated exams with their own device at the location of their  liking. In a practical sense, the exam-taker will mostly be at home (so remote from the educational institution) and log with a computer or laptop in on a proctoring service. The proctor service identifies the exam-taker and create a highly secure exam environment. After identification, the exam-taker can take the exam.

Objectives of the partnership

In this Strategic Partnership, “Online Proctoring for Remote Examination” (OP4RE), six leading Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and two private companies focused on technology-enhanced education innovation, will work collaboratively to develop a valid and reliable solution for remote examination. With the support of 21 Associate Partners, OP4RE aims to develop, implement and disseminate innovative practices relating to remote examination to enable European HEIs to realize the full benefits of online education through secure and trustworthy examination and certification. More specifically, OP4RE will address the following key barriers to the uptake of remote examination: 1. Uncertainty related to the validity and accreditation of remote online examination; 2. Security issues including fraud; 3. Practical and technical issues in the implementation of online proctoring; 4. Potential negative perspectives/experiences by students; 5. Privacy issues.

Activities and methodologies

The three-year project will consist of Preparation, Implementation and Follow-Up phases. In the initial 6-month Preparation phase, the project will investigate current practices of remote examination in order to determine best practices across Europe. Desk-based literature research will be supplemented by case studies drawn from the partner institutions. The implementation phase has a duration of two years and will consist of further desk-based research and interviews as well as the set-up of several pilots employing remote examination in various settings within the six participating HEIs. Within this phase a highly innovative online proctoring system will be developed, tested and implemented, based on findings from the initial Preparation phase, and which will build on the current offerings of the consortium’s two private companies. As such, an innovative, best-practice solution to address the five key barriers to remote examination will be created and specific guidelines drafted in the form of Open Access Intellectual Outputs (IOs).The final Follow Up phase will focus on dissemination of the project’s IOs and findings to HEI’s, HE policy makers and accreditation/certification organizations across Europe. We will showcase the proposed solution and provide guidance, policies and procedures to enable other European institutions and awarding bodies to scale-up their offerings of online courses and examination. The Associate Partners will play a central role in this phase, and various national “Reach Out” meetings will be held including a major international conference in Hertfordshire, UK in September 2019.

Envisaged results and impact

OP4RE aims to resolve the current issues associated with remote examination and demonstrate the full potential and benefits of online education in Europe, by providing secure and trustworthy online examination and certification. Moreover, OP4RE will create five innovative Intellectual Outputs to support HEIs across Europe to develop and implement remote examination and online proctoring themselves: (1) Accreditation and remote examination rulebook; (2) Security- and anti-fraud legislation protocols; (3) Bring your own device (BYOD)/off-campus examination protocol; (4) Guidelines for fair and optimal student experience and achievement; and (5) Privacy Regulations.

Potential longer term benefits

By offering secure, remote examination processes, higher education can become more accessible to a wider audience. Online education coupled with remote examination, offers more students the opportunity to gain a degree without the need to stay at or travel to university. In this way, this project will widen access to HE through reduced cost and help educate people across the world, especially in countries where access to this level of education is restricted. In addition, the project addresses the needs of those students who could otherwise not attend traditional university campuses or physical exam locations due to factors such as disability, chronic illness or caring commitments.