“The top issue relates to integrity of online assessments,” explained Smetters. “Is the right student taking the exam? Is the student searching the internet for answers or accessing other applications during the exam? Is the student using a second-hand computer or accessing other devices or materials during the online exam? Is the student receiving help by another person, or working in a group during the exam?”

These issues are currently being driven by accreditation mandates, said Smetters, but the challenges have been around for a while.

Other issues with online assessments involve FERPA and privacy issues during proctoring of exams.

However, some of the leading providers of online assessments to many institutions consider these features ‘must-haves’ for ‘good’ online assessments:

1. Auto-proctoring: A fancy way of saying ‘no human proctors.’

“To ensure that a learner does not simply Google his way to a certification, a good assessment partner should be able to provide a cheating-proof environment,” said Mettl, an online assessment solution. “Photo ID verification, signatures, typing-styles, screen-sharing, and webcams are known and tested ways to avoid cheating in exams. The use of a webcam and microphone enables learners to take exam at their home, while the camera does its work recording the associated screen activity.”

Auto proctoring also helps to cut down cost of hiring a manual proctor.

“If you need to rely on human beings to grade and proctor the exams, the costs can skyrocket,” said Smetters.

One of Respondus’ solutions, Respondus Monitor, uses a student’s webcam to record the assessment session, allowing for exams to be taken in a non-proctored environment and deters students from accessing other resources during an exam—such as a phone or second computer.

It also ensures the right student is taking the exam, and that the student isn’t getting help from others.

By using this monitor, the company can price the application using FTE or seat pricing, not on a per exam basis.

“There are no restrictions to the number of exams that use Respondus Monitor in a course—the cost is the same,” said Smetters. “In fact, the typical instructor uses Respondus Monitor with over six assessments each term. That would be too cost prohibitive with live proctoring solutions. If an institution is doing live proctoring with over 500 exams a year, Respondus Monitor is almost always a huge cost savings.”

2. Scalability

According to Mettl, scalability of assessment software is critical for smooth functioning. For example, a course on the ancient Greeks—a relatively obscure topic—may have around 2,000 tests per annum, while  a popular course like coding will amount to around 20,000 tests in the same time. The assessment platform should be able to scale seamlessly.

A highly scalable solution shouldn’t require students to schedule their exam sessions days or weeks in advance, said Smetters.

“During busy testing periods, our system can handle more users simultaneously than the live proctoring services can support in an entire day,” he emphasized. “Students like not having to schedule exam sessions in advance; and if students have to pay for the proctoring cost themselves, they like that our solution is $10 for unlimited use during a term, compared to $20 to $35 charged for each exam by live proctoring services.”

(Next page: Features 3-5)

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