Last updated on August 29, 2023
How do you measure your own success? When you’re trying to learn something new or develop a new skill, you need to study and practice. Eventually, you’ll need to apply what you know to be sure you’ve mastered what you’ve learned. However, if you take shortcuts, you’re cheating yourself out of your education and may receive recognition you didn’t earn.
This is an important lesson that we can help students learn. To prevent students from cheating themselves out of valuable learning, and to help increase the reliability of academic programs at our institution, it is important that we all emphasize academic integrity and remain vigilant against attempts to exploit systems (a fancy way of saying “cheating”).
So, that leaves an important question: What are the most efficient and effective ways to assess how your students have developed through your course, while also ensuring academic integrity? For many instructors, online quizzes and exams are often the preferred method to assess the knowledge and skills of students. However, while online learning offers so many opportunities for students to learn, it also opens the door to new forms of academic dishonesty. Online proctoring, via a service like ProctorU, can discourage cheating while taking online assessments and help identify students who cheat.
However, proctoring is not an easy and simple solution. There is a lot to consider as this can be a very invasive strategy, and it does not guarantee that all attempts at academic dishonesty will be prevented or discovered. Proctoring has real costs for your students that you should weigh against the value this kind of service can offer to preventing cheating.
Proctored exams are more time consuming to set up and complete, more stressful for students, and do not completely guarantee academic integrity. Even honest students can perform worse on a proctored exam simply due to increased anxiety. This doesn’t mean proctoring can’t be used, but that you should always be mindful of its effects on students. When evaluating whether proctoring is right for your class and students, always be mindful of the alternatives, as well as how to reduce harm when using a proctored solution.
Why use online proctoring?
- Proctoring is best suited to important assessments that are the most essential for judging student progress, like finals and exams required for accreditation.
- You can use proctoring to ensure academic integrity in your exams. Quizzes and tests administered only through Canvas provide better opportunities for academic dishonesty than those in a classroom. Online proctoring can help address certain kinds of cheating.
- ProctorU can record students, their screens, and listen to them as they take the exam to identify possible behaviors associated with cheating. Students will also be required to provide a detailed view of the room they are in to check for prohibited material.
- You can review the footage later to identify possible issues and take action if necessary. ProctorU can flag material for your review, but you will still need to take an active role in monitoring student behavior should you choose to use it.
What are my proctoring options?
- ProctorU provides remote proctoring services for online courses at MSU Denver. You’ll need to set up the quiz well in advance as students will need to book time slots. ProctorU offers three tiers of service that are progressively more secure, but also more intrusive.
- The MSU Denver Testing Center offers in-person proctoring services for online courses at MSU. This could be offered as an alternative to ProctorU, but not as a default choice for an online class.
- While not proctoring, Unicheck is used to detect plagiarism in written work submitted online. You can see our Use Unicheck tutorial for more information on enabling it for a Canvas assignment.
- Quizzes in Canvas can be set up with a password that’s required for access. This enables you to provide that password to an off-site proctoring service that may be more convenient for the student.
- If you do choose to use proctoring, be sure to take simple steps to facilitate the experience for your students and reduce anxiety.
- Assure students that you are the final decider on whether cheating has occurred, not the proctor.
- Identify which materials, if any, students are allowed to use.
- Prime students for what to expect during the assessment, like how they will be recorded and what behaviors might be suspicious.
- Remind students of your own academic integrity standards, and those of the university.
Why avoid online proctoring?
- Proctoring creates a more tense and stressful test-taking environment. Students do their best when they are comfortable and confident; even an honest student who is anxious about the proctored environment may perform worse as a result.
- Online proctoring generally presents a serious intrusion into students’ privacy. Being recorded and facilitating the proctor remotely inspecting their homes is a meaningful concern to students.
- A good deal more work goes into a proctored exam, for both the instructor and the student. To use ProctorU you will need to set up the exam a while in advance to give students time to register.
What alternatives are there to proctoring?
- Consider creating open-note quizzes and tests. Measuring a student’s ability to readily recall information is valuable in some applications, but there are many situations where you can test how well a student can synthesize and apply different concepts with free access to their notes, a textbook, or even the internet.
- Avoid multiple-choice and true/false question types. These kinds of questions are much easier to quickly look up and cheat. Answers that require a student to write or calculate will be harder, but not impossible, to fabricate.
- Looking up an answer is more time consuming than answering honestly, so you can apply a time limit to your exam to make academic dishonesty more difficult. This should not be done cavalierly, as short time limits introduce a great deal of stress for your students.
- Explain your academic dishonesty policy early in your course, like in the Course Overview page of the Course Information module or in your syllabus. Remind students that you take cheating seriously in the quiz instructions. Being reminded of the consequences might deter some cheaters in the moment.
What is the Guardian Browser?
- The Guardian Browser is a special internet browser developed by ProctorU for students to use when completing exams.
- It prevents the student from accessing unapproved materials and records information about the session to detect academic dishonesty.
- Use of the Guardian browser is mandatory for students taking exams on ProctorU and they will need to install the software from ProctorU’s website (or Self Service/Software Center on MSU Denver computers).
- Instructors do not need to install the Guardian browser to set up ProctorU exams.
- ProctorU – a walkthrough to setting up ProctorU and implementing it in your course
- Unicheck – a tutorial on creating a Unicheck-enabled Assignment
- MSU Denver Testing Center – in-person proctoring on the Auraria campus