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Teaching Essentials

Can I create a proctored exam environment through Webex or Teams?

Can I create a proctored exam environment through Webex or Teams?

Proctoring Students through Webex or Teams is not a recommended practice as these tools are not designed for that purpose.

  • There are significant limitations and drawbacks that can lead to legal issues, even if done well.
  • It is difficult to monitor more than a few students at once and actually identify misconduct.
  • Students can find work-arounds to engage in academic misconduct, even while you are watching. Students can easily access tutorials on how to circumvent online exams.
  • It may actually create more problems for your students, negatively impacting their performance which could create opportunities to appeal grades.

Online monitoring of exams, if necessary, should accompany alternate test construction so that there is not total reliance on proctoring to ensure academic integrity. In this way, proctoring becomes instructor engagement in the evaluation process, allowing the instructor to be available for questions.

For more information on alternate and authentic assessment, see RRC’s Flexible Online Delivery Model or request a teaching and learning consultation.

What are the considerations for online proctoring?

Instructors should limit the creation of Instructor Proctored environments to those situations where observing students taking exams is truly necessary, such as for accreditation or other equally pressing reason.

If you are considering this approach, read through these considerations first.

  • Students AND instructors will need consistent, high-speed wired (not wireless) internet, or risk dropped connections. Instructors will need to be able to handle many incoming video streams simultaneously.
  • Most test or exam sessions should not be recorded unless absolutely necessary as it poses a higher risk of triggering student privacy concerns. Legal Counsel is available to consult if necessary, with Chairs or Deans to assist with determining if recording is appropriate.
  • Alternate methods to contact the instructor (e.g. phone/email) must be made available in case of technical difficulties with internet.
  • Instructors will need to determine how they will monitor students’ environments. For example:
    • Asking to see the entire work area, desk and room, before the assessment, and how that will be carried out for all students in a group setting;
    • Requiring students to use an external webcam to gain a specific view of the student.
      • This may be an extra expense that poses an unreasonable hardship, or may be impossible to obtain due to product shortages.

Planning for Problems

  • What will be done if the instructor’s connection drops during the exam?
  • What will be done if the student’s connection drops during the exam?
  • What is the back up plan in the case of technical difficulties (e.g. rescheduling etc.), given that technical support response times will vary.
  • Which behaviours will be flagged for further evaluation?
    • Some behaviours that may be considered suspicious may actually reflect symptoms related to a student’s medical condition or disability. (e.g., movements, sounds)
  • How alleged misconduct will be investigated and by whom.
    • Any alleged misconduct should not be investigated until after the exam.

If resolving these considerations is not possible, online proctoring is likely not viable.

What about exam accommodations?

Students eligible for accommodations have to be informed of the test delivery method and they will need to follow Exam Accommodations procedures (i.e., submit an online exam request) in order to receive accommodations for the exam.  

  • The College has a legal duty to accommodate students with disabilities or other protected personal characteristics to the point of undue hardship. Undue Hardship means that the College absolutely cannot accommodate because doing so would compromise accreditation or would not require the student to demonstrate the learning outcomes. Inconvenience, frustration and even cost usually are not enough to amount to undue hardship.
  • Our legal duty to accommodate continues, in spite of the difficult circumstances created by remote learning.  
  • Students are entitled to be accommodated as assessed by the Accessibility Services and Exam Accommodations Team and may need an alternative assessment environment or other accommodations which Exam Accommodations may not be able to provide. 

    Exam Accommodations will not be in a position to proctor exams in an online environment. As a result, if an Instructor chooses to create an Instructor proctored environment, the Instructor will be responsible for implementing the approved accommodations. This could mean being available to proctor for a longer period of time (i.e., Double the time). 

The Exam Accommodations Team is available to support Instructors in determining options for implementing accommodations.   

If you are not able to provide requested exam accommodations, online proctoring is not viable.

What are the instructor’s responsibilities?

If all the above issues have been resolved, and creating an instructor proctored environment is considered a necessary option to respond to remote learning due to COVID-19:

  • Consider having multiple proctors for large groups of students. This allows monitoring to continue while individual student concerns are addressed.
  • Setup a breakout room (WebEx) or separate meeting (MS Teams) for addressing individual concerns (only viable if there are multiple proctors).
  • Ask students to leave their audio on for the instructor to hear each person, but advise all students to turn their speakers off so they are not disturbed by other test takers.
  • Students should have the opprotunity to practice setting up and using the technical tools required during the test/exam.
  • Provide the following information to students, ideally two weeks in advance:
    • date and time of the assessment
    • behaviours that will be investigated as misconduct
    • support options (servicedesk@rrc.caCaselog)
    • method to communicate with the instructor during the exam.
      •  e.g., send a private note in the chat to the instructor?
      • Note: If the interaction must be verbal, this may present a distraction for the other students.

These recommendations should be considered a last resort in administering a remote test or exam.

What are the guidelines for setting up an exam environment at home?

Provide students with clear guidelines about what is and is not acceptable, at least two weeks in advance.

Make sure the guidelines include information about:

  • Cell phone and device usage (can they have them on and/or in the room for back-end support);
  • Landlines and answering services set not to disturb the test environment;
  • Family members and roommates notified not to disturb the test taker;
  • Materials that are allowed and are not allowed in the workspace (specify prohibited items);
  • What to do if they are roommates with a classmate, or need to be in the same residence as another test writer for any reason;
  • Headphone usage;
  • The expectations around background noise (e.g., TV, music etc.);
  • The expectations around responding to interruptions (family or other life issues) that may arise during the test;
  • Whether or not bathroom breaks are allowed;
  • Whether food or drink is allowed.
  • Whether writing paper and writing tools are allowed.

Instructors and co-invigilators will also need to set up their environment to ensure no interruptions during the exam.

Ultimately, online proctoring is not recommended and instructors are encouraged to developed alternate assessment methods.

For more information on alternate and authentic assessment, see RRC’s Flexible Online Delivery Model or request a teaching and learning consultation.

These guidelines are provided to make the best of a situation where Instructor Proctored online environment is deemed the only option. All information has been provided under consultation of RRC Legal Counsel, Exam Accommodations, LEARN Support, Faculty Development and Academic Integrity Specialist.

Further Reading

Cramp, Joshua; Medlin, John F.; Lake, Phoebe; and Sharp, Colin, Lessons learned from implementing remotely invigilated online exams, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice,16(1), 2019. Available at: https://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol16/iss1/10