Survival of the fittest – exploring online proctoring solutions

The affordance of technologies in online learning and teaching is offering myriad and multi-faceted educational solutions during the COVID’19 pandemic. However, ensuring academic integrity during remote examinations, still remains a challenge. Monitoring students’ behaviour during exams including dishonest and unethical practices such as cheating and fraud compounds this challenge. Online proctoring tools for monitoring student activities during assessment offer some solutions. But for the moment, they too remain untried and untested on any large scale and there are also a number of outstanding questions about the cost of these service and their technical requirements.

In order to learn more about proctoring tools, the University of the South Pacific carried out an investigation to properly explore a selection of these tools and offer recommendations. This involved a four-phased approach, starting with desk research followed with pilot testing by a group of experts as well as students.  The elimination of a tool in every phase was based on the ‘survival of the fittest’ approach.

Based on our research, we would like to put forward several factors that needs to be considered before taking a leap into the online proctoring world, they are:

  • Pedagogical considerations: Alternative assessment strategies can be used to assess achievement of learning outcomes instead of tests and exams. This could include splitting of exams into parts where some learning outcomes could be tested with proctored exams and others in the form of written assessment. It does not matter which tools are used to assess the learning outcome, what matters is how these are used and their effectiveness and efficacy in achieving learning outcomes.
  • Technological considerations: Effective and innovative use of existing institutional technologies such as video conferencing services ( e.g. Zoom) and learning management systems instead of opting for expensive online proctoring solutions. Where students are connected virtually to examiners and are being “watched” throughout the examination period. And students can share their desktop if the examiner is suspicious. It could also be possible to allow students to write answers to examination questions on a blank piece of paper and have a picture of it taken and uploaded for marking. All this could be done during the video conferencing session that is proctored. Handwritten examination scripts can be marked using plugins integrated with the learning management system.
  • Accessibility considerations: Online proctoring requires students to have access to suitable technological infrastructure, without which this will not work reliably, creating a divide between those with, and without access to this technological infrastructure. Then there are those students with disabilities who may require a lot more assistance and guidance than it is possible while taking online-proctored exams.
  • Privacy considerations: Online proctoring tools video record students’ biometric, facial, voice and kinesthetic data. How the recorded video of a proctored exam will be protected, interpreted and used by the institution and the third party online proctoring service provider must be clearly articulated to the students. Also whether students have a “choice” to not partake in a proctored exam due to privacy concerns.
  • Socio-economic considerations: The current COVID’19 pandemic is causing a great deal of disruption across the socio-economic fabric of society. Aspects that were taken for granted such as access to a personal computer or laptop, a neat and tidy room with sufficient lighting, internet connectivity, food, water or even basic necessities may not be as readily available for many students, especially those in developing contexts.

This article has been adapted from Hussein, M. J., Yusuf, J., Deb, A. S., Fong, L., & Naidu, S. (2020). An Evaluation of Online Proctoring ToolsOpen Praxis, 509-525, 12(4), ISSN 2304-070X


Mohammed Juned Hussein, Learning Experience Designer, Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL),The University of the South Pacific (USP), Suva, Fiji.

Javed Yusuf, Head – Learning Experience Design & Development, Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL), The University of the South Pacific (USP), Suva, Fiji.