Note: Surpass Assessment is now the company name for BTL and BTL Surpass.
Are you about to take your first steps into online invigilation, or perhaps it’s something you’d really like to introduce, but have a few reservations about taking an alternative approach to the traditional test centre? Following on from their insightful presentation at this year’s FAB conference, BTL’s Tim Burnett and Emma Hall share their top tips for anyone venturing into online invigilation, based on their experiences of working with a number of organisations to trial and implement BTL’s dual-camera online invigilation solution.
Listen to the audio recording to hear Tim and Emma discuss these ideas in detail or read our ten top tips.
1. Start with the right test
Whenever you’re trying a new solution for the first time, it’s always good practice to start small, rather than going straight in with a high-stakes, long duration exam. Think about starting with a low-stakes exam and with low candidate numbers as you get used to new processes and iron out any teething problems. Also, consider the audience – online invigilation takes a small amount of technical set up by the candidate, so it may not be appropriate to start with a group that have limited technical capabilities.
2. Choose your method
Online Invigilation can either be conducted live or using the record and review method. Both have their advantages so it’s worth considering which method provides the most benefit to you. Live invigilation has someone observing the footage as it happens, so is best for dealing with incidents immediately as they occur. This method may be more suitable for high-risk exam sessions or ones where content harvesting is a particular concern. Record and review, however, can be more cost-effective and less resource-intensive, as it involves a team of trained invigilators reviewing footage after the exam session is over. This method can also give you greater flexibility outside of core business hours as you’re not restricted by invigilator availability. It’s even thought that it could be more effective at capturing suspicious behaviour as sessions can be played back at high-speed making behaviour more obvious. You can, of course, use a combination of both live and record and review, so you’ve got the ability to deal with incidents as they happen and can re-watch footage if necessary.
3. Don’t confuse the candidate with multiple brands
There can be multiple organisations and suppliers involved in exam delivery – you’ve got the awarding body, an assessment platform provider, and potentially a separate supplier of online invigilation technology, but the candidate doesn’t really need to know all this. As far as they’re concerned, they are taking a qualification through an awarding body, so try and maintain that single brand connection in your communications so as not to confuse the candidate with anything unfamiliar to them.
4. Beware of the spam filter
You’ll be sending out various communications to candidates in the run-up to exam day, but just because you’ve sent the email, don’t assume it’s been received, and if it’s received, don’t assume it’s been read and the instructions have been followed. Seek advice on how to avoid emails getting caught in spam filters (e.g. don’t include too many links to different places), and try and include some tracking, so you know who you might need to follow up with. Ensuring candidates have followed any pre-exam day instructions minimises issues occurring on the day.
5. Support your candidates
Exams can be stressful for candidates, and whilst their own location may be more convenient and more comfortable for them, they could feel worried about who is going to provide support should they have any questions or difficulty accessing their test. Something as simple as an on-screen chat functionality can really help candidates feel comfortable and show that there’s support there should they need it.
6. Contract with one organisation
You might have one supplier for your assessment software, but the online invigilation technology may be supplied by another. Having multiple suppliers to deal with can be complicated and can result in delays in resolving issues. Try and choose a supplier that takes overall responsibility for all aspects of the service (even if the technology is provided by a third-party), like BTL, so that you’ve only got one point of contact to deal with.
7. Be prepared for what you might see
It’s understandable that candidates feel more at ease in their own environment. We’ve seen people in their pyjamas, some questionable room décor, and all kinds of behaviour when candidates forget they are being watched. Try and be open-minded and prepare your invigilators so that they don’t feel uncomfortable observing a candidate in their own home, and help them to identify environmental factors that are/aren’t acceptable during an exam session.
8. Don’t assume the candidate is cheating
Just because a candidate isn’t in a traditional test centre, doesn’t mean they are going to take any opportunity they can to cheat. With a service such as BTL’s dual-camera online invigilation solution, all the measures are in place to monitor the candidate from all angles and ensure nothing suspicious is going on, but, if you do suspect malpractice, don’t jump to the conclusion that the candidate has set out to cheat. Sometimes, things can be beyond a candidate’s control, such as someone entering the room by mistake. Make sure you thoroughly review all of the evidence available to you before punishing the candidate, as chances are it was all an honest mistake. Consider providing a door hanger as part of your marketing materials, just like the ones used in hotels with ‘do not disturb’ on them.
9. Take breaks into account
If a candidate was in a test centre, they could raise their hand and be escorted for a toilet break, but how is this managed for a remotely invigilated test? Think about the duration of the exam and whether breaks need to be factored in. You can take advantage of some functionality in the way a test is created to help with this, for example, the no return or timed sections, and scheduled breaks available in Surpass which mean you can allow the candidate a break at a convenient point in the test without compromising any of the question content.
10. Be bold, be brave
If you think online proctoring could be right for you, then don’t be afraid to give it a try. All it takes is for a few organisations to take these steps forward, and others will follow, helping to change the way we offer tests to candidates. The team at BTL are always happy to talk through your requirements and answer any questions you might have.
- The Association of Corporate Treasurers were the first organisation to implement BTL’s online invigilation service, watch the case study.
- There were several presentations and workshops at this year’s Surpass Conference focusing on online invigilation.
- The e-Assessment Association is a great source of knowledge for all aspects of assessment, and there’s also a special interest group on remote proctoring.
- If you’re already a Surpass Community member, you can of course contact your Account Manager who will be happy to discuss online invigilation with you.