The growing popularity of e-examinations raises many challenges and considerations for institutions, however, ensuring electronic exams are secure is probably the biggest concern of all. From the institution’s perspective, preventing cheating is the main priority, but for candidates the main issue is ensuring a fair exam and transparent process.
In this blog post, we will discuss various ways of ensuring a fair and secure e-exam and how Speedwell’s new online exam software tackles some of these challenges.
Basic preventative measures include surveillance with proctors and identity authentication. Candidate authentication can be checked with the use of digital cameras, identity cards and cross-matching information furnished in earlier forms. Such checks are also complemented with unique passwords and user names which can be set up in our eSystem with the candidate management tool.
Secure communication and authentication is required of the website browser and the associated web server before an e-exam takes place. The Speedwell eSystem uses the latest, state of the art Microsoft Windows .NET technology. It is highly secure, with SSL encryption used for all communications and encrypted passwords. Thus ensuring that the contents of the communications between the user and the intended website cannot be read, tampered with or forged.
Cheating in online exams
How do you prevent candidates from talking to each other, others outside the room, or just accessing Google or another resource for the answer? Technical configuration is key but ensuring a complete lockdown without access to the local hard disk, other networks, CD/DVD, USB and Bluetooth is close to impossible. Due to the sheer variety of operating systems and devices, some may have varying levels of lockdown which raises issues of fairness for candidates. Unfortunately it is a ‘cat and mouse game’ and constant maintenance and upgrades are necessary to stay ahead of hackers and students trying to beat the system. University owned devices are probably more secure in this respect. However, Speedwell are currently working on an app to lock down the local computer which will block most threats and what it can’t block will detect. This will be available later this year.
As for those nosey neighbours looking to copy answers, the Speedwell eSystem has an option to randomise the question order and answer order, which will help prevent this form of cheating.
Inhibiting screen capture or apps that video the screen
This can be quite difficult to control in some environments, more so in bring your own device (BYOD) where the heterogeneity of devices and differing operating systems means lockdowns may be circumvented. This a high priority for Speedwell and we are currently developing a way of doing this.
Data storage and audit trail
Data storage and audit trails are designed to provide evidence and documentation of the candidate’s responses. The eSystem collects answers in real-time as the student progresses through the exam. The web exam responses are stored in the database providing a back-up of each students’ answers even if the submit button never gets clicked or the IT system crashes! This is one of the advantages of a live/online system. It also allows for real-time monitoring of candidates during the exam and viewing the exam statistics, therefore providing a valuable audit trail for each candidate.
To aid transparency, a candidate feedback report can be a very useful tool. With Speedwell’s eSystem, feedback can be given to candidates for each choice and for the overall question if the candidate gets the question wrong. A full candidate feedback report is currently under development and will be available by this summer.
To find out more about our eSystem or view a demo, please contact our sales team on +44 (0) 1223 851703 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Published 2nd April, 2015