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Online proctoring. How does it work? Part I.

Who can benefit from using Online proctoring technology? Everyone who develops remote education systems in educational institutions and companies, as well as HR-managers and employees of IT-departments.

Main themes of this article:

Structure and operation of the online proctoring platform and key stages of online exams
The modes of the online proctoring system

We will try not to go into details; otherwise, it’s going to be a long story. At the same time, we will try to give you the most complete picture of the online exam system software.

Structure and operation of the online proctoring system and key stages of online exams

Online proctoring extension works from a browser with no additional installations needed. The service is integrated into a testing system - LMS (learning management system). Examus’s online proctoring service is offered as a SaaS (Software as a Service), and the entire infrastructure is stored in cloud services. Students do not need to install anything on the computer. They just open the browser, go to the specified link, pass system and identity verification, and start taking the exam.

Important decision: shall students use a computer or a phone? Our experience shows that only the desktop version gives reliable results, so we always strongly recommend it to our customers. The mobile version gives the user too many opportunities to exploit the system. However, we understand that, in some cases, there is no chance to use a computer, e.g., when field workers are located in a remote plant or factory. We will describe all the features of the mobile version of the system in one of the following articles.

The proctoring system requests access to the camera and microphone and checks its functionality as well as the stability of the Internet connection, the presence of a second screen, and all attempts to simulate or imitate the screen. If the system can pass all the tests, the students have to pass the identification process, i.e., take and send a photo of themselves with an identity document (a driver’s license, a student ID card, or a credit card).

After that, the student can start the examination. At the same time, the online proctoring system acquires information from 3 different sources:
· Camera
· Microphone
· Desktop

After completing the exam, the online proctoring system will gather and combine information from all the sources into a single combined record.

During the exam, the online exam proctoring software analyzes students' actions. The system is flexible, so the rules can be adjusted for each exam. In some cases, student can use a calculator while, in others, one needs a pen and paper.

During the examination, the system automatically detects the following types of violations:
· Changing the direction of the gaze, i.e., when the user is looking elsewhere;
· Lack of the face in the frame, i.e., if the user is not in the field of view of the camera or the face is not fully visible;
· The presence of other faces in the frame (it is also recommended to remove any portraits from the wall because they can be automatically recognized as violators of the examination rules);
· Substitution of the student, i.e., if the person in the frame is not the same person that was intended to participate in the examination;
· Any human voices in the frame, even if it is the voice of the student (e.g., the student announces questions to another person in the room);
· Change of the windows and tabs on the desktop, i.e., if the user decided to switch from the test window to a search engine or open a third-party application.

In the online proctoring mode, when the entire process is controlled and monitored by a person, the number of violations increases, because the person can notice the violation by indirect signs.

The following additional violations are registered:
· The usage of phones, tablets, and other devices;
· The usage of TeamViewer, Skype, RemoteAdmin, and other desktop broadcasting software;
· The usage of virtual machines and thin clients to pass an examination by a third party;
· The usage of books, notes, and drafts;
· The usage of calculators (if prohibited);
· All cases of non-verbal communication (winks, hand movements, nodding, etc.).

Examus automatically marks all potential rule violations and adds them to the report. Each violation entry contains information about the type of violation, such as moving the eyes away from the screen or changing a window, and a timestamp.

Based on the results of the exam, the online proctoring system calculates the overall probability of violations during the exam: green zone means low probability, yellow medium, and red high.
In other words, Examus can immediately determine who has to be checked first.

This means that, based on the results of the exam, we can do the following actions for each of the students:
· View and listen to recordings from the camera, microphone, and desktop;
· View all potential violations in chronological order;
· Wiew the records of what was happening at that particular moment.

Types of online proctoring

Automatic proctoring: everything is done by an AI proctor. The obvious advantage of this mode is that it reduces the overall costs of exams. However, in many situations, human participation is simply irreplaceable, such as:
● If the fate of a person depends on the results of an exam, we can’t leave the decision to the machine;
● Even the most precise automation system can’t track certain non-obvious violations;
● The automation is very sensitive, and one can’t explain that a stranger in the room is a mother who accidentally entered and will leave in a matter of seconds;
● There are many cases when one needs to control all the stages of the exam process, e.g., one may need to pass the student by using one of the predefined protocols before giving access to the examination;
● The operator of the proctoring system can ensure that the student follows the procedure for a particular exam. In some cases, the student must show that their palms are not full of hints and answers, while, after another exam, they must tear the draft into small pieces.

Therefore, in addition to automatic AI proctoring, there are 3 modes with human participation:
1. Asynchronous mode: an operator will review the recording after the examination;
2. Synchronous mode: remote online monitoring and control of the examination process by an operator of the proctoring system;
3. Identification mode: the operator only confirms the identity of the student before entering the exam;

Each mode has its interface and methodology for working with operators, which we will discuss in detail in the following articles.

We hope you now understand how the online proctoring system works in general. In our next articles, we will explore the technologies behind the Proctoring Solution for Online Exams.

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Examus team

May 28, 2020.
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