What is online proctoring?
The definition of proctoring is “to invigilate; to watch people take an exam and check they don’t cheat”. For centuries we have managed high stake exams by putting hundreds of students in a room. With stern-looking people walking up and down, checking that you have nothing up your sleeves or on your watch to ensure the validity of the end results cannot be challenged. Invigilation is there to create a fair playing field for all and to ensure parents, employers and the students themselves can trust the end results.
But what to do in an age where sitting hundreds of people in a room for several hours is simply not possible?
The agility of the education sector
In the last three weeks, we have seen the education sector move to remote learning models. There are different examples of this.
- At FI we have replaced our in-centre schedules with Virtual Classrooms. We manage attendance, student questions, marking and feedback as we always have done.
- Schools are delivering full days of structured classes remotely.
- Some universities seem to be struggling on the back of 4-6 weeks of lecturer strikes. Consequently, many year 1 and year 2 university students have been simply told: “get ready for a September start”.
However, on the whole the “teaching and learning” part of the education sector has been incredibly agile.
So what of the assessment side of the education sector? Ofqual has come out and said that GCSEs and A levels will be assessed on the back of teacher input; it seems there is no solution to run high stakes mass exams differently.
In our sector, accountancy education, we are seeing the grassroots of some real innovation which we hope will spread.
The introduction of online exams
CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) is leading the way with announcements that ALL of their 17 exams will be remotely proctored from May 2020. This is fantastic news, as it allows their students across the globe to keep studying. At FI, we have extended our CIMA offering to allow students to make the most of remote testing.
I had to find out more about this “remote proctoring”. CIMA isn’t the first in our market to do this. Moreover, other institutes such as CIPFA, have been using remote proctoring for online exams for some time.
Pearson Vue are the testing provider that CIMA use. Interestingly, it is the same provider that ACCA and ICAEW use (ICAEW use BTL for the Professional and Advanced levels, who also have online proctoring software). This is great news for employers. Mostly because once you have the right spec for IT to support the CIMA tests, it is expected this will meet the same requirements for ACCA and ICAEW if (or more likely when) they move to remote proctoring. For more information to share with your IT departments, or to check your own PC spec please see here.
How does online proctoring work?
I have had a look at Pearson OnVue (the name they have given for online proctoring) and the process is pretty much the same as you would expect if attending a physical centre. I was really impressed.
There are a few simple requirements for candidates to sit an OnVUE online proctored exam:
- Quiet, private location
- A reliable device with a webcam
- Strong internet connection
The process of the exam is as follows:
- Log into your Pearson Vue account
- When you click ‘Begin Exam’ you will be prompted to download the OnVue software
- Run the OnVue software and complete the check-in process, which includes taking a photo of your ID, a headshot, and photos of your surroundings
- The exam will begin when you have completed the check-in process
- During the exam you will be monitored via your webcam and microphone and will not be permitted to move out of the proctor’s view.
- You can ask the proctor questions by using the chat icon at the top of your screen.
If you want to read more or watch the video (with a nice American man talking for a bit) click here.
How is online proctoring changing the face of education?
Can we expect this type of invigilation to be in place for us all in the coming years? There are some blockers at the moment, for example, concerns by regulators such as Ofqual, about the robustness of these measures for high-value exams. However, compared to relying on teacher input for 0.5 million GCSE and 0.5 million A Level students, and in such uncertain times when necessity is the mother of all invention, it may be time to think how we CAN do things rather than why we cannot.
Will all exams be online in the future?
Being able to offer a choice is really the best approach, and I expect the assessment side of the education sector will join the teaching and learning side, agreeing with this position. The ability to offer remote proctoring to enable greater accessibility, greater choice and mitigate risks of huge physical spaces being required makes a lot of sense. So long as physical centres remain for those students who don’t have access to PCs to continue to access learning, the world of remote proctoring of professional exams may well be on our doorstep.
Get ready for this change not just in accountancy qualifications, but within a few years to be available for GCSEs, A Levels and degrees as well.
Martin Taylor is Chairman of FI Ltd and has worked in the education industry for over 20 years. Read more about the future of accountancy education.