Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Elliott Hall, Room 200A
275 Varner Drive
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4485
(location map)
(248) 370-2751

Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Elliott Hall, Room 200A
275 Varner Drive
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4485
(location map)
(248) 370-2751

A pen set on top of a piece of paper with math equations

Proctoring and Pedagogical Choices

Mon Mar 22, 2021 at 07:30 AM

Many of our teaching tips have discussed ways to reduce and prevent academic integrity issues, usually deemed cheating or plagiarism. These tips are drops in raging currents around cheating online during a pandemic when everyone’s resources are strained. While in some ways these issues are novel, upon a closer look they exacerbate existing issues in how we assess student learning. Using remote proctoring services has been a default option for many institutions. While it may provide some disincentive to cheat, it is also not a labor-free option for the instructor (Silverman et al., in press), as instructors may have to review dozens (even hundreds) of flagged behaviors and other technical difficulties.

While there has been much critical attention to the use of remote proctoring services, it remains one option in monitoring students during online exams. This teaching tip highlights how OU faculty have approached choices around proctoring, the reasons behind these choices, and the result. While all three use some form of proctoring, two opted out of remote proctoring services (ProctorU) while another limited the use of this service. Their disciplines differ, but these elements are consistent:

  • They listen to students.
  • They set students up for success.
  • They value student wellness and provide a supportive and accountable environment.
  • They attend carefully to assessment conditions with the goal of demonstrating learning.

Two of these faculty chose to proctor their exams through ZoomIf you choose to use a proctoring service, prepare students as much as possible to reduce anxiety and technical difficulties. e-LIS has provided ProctorU Instructions for Faculty (see also video instructions). Also provide students the proctoring guide for students (see also the proctoring intro for students video).

Frequent Low-Stakes Practice Prepares Students for Exam

Lynda Poly-Droulard, Nursing

I teach a 5-credit, accelerated, 7-week course that includes a lab, a clinical, and a theory component. The course covers essential foundational content for nursing practice that reappears throughout the program. Each component of the course requires testing in some format. The course is stressful to say the least. To promote student comprehension, success, and confidence, I incorporate adaptive low-stakes practice quizzes to prepare the students for a low-stakes weekly quiz. The weekly quizzes prepare the student for the exams. Non-proctored low-stakes quizzes are a good solution to decrease stress associated with proctoring. If students are given an opportunity to learn the material, without the pressure of high-stake exams and the stresses associated with proctoring, they can be relieved of the pressure of failing and be more open to learning. If the students understand the rationale for the nursing interventions learned (instead of just memorizing information for the next quiz or exam) their comprehension improves and the lessons can translate into more vigilant practice in the clinical setting. 

I use a proctor service for two required high-stake assessments that prepare the students for their proctored National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) (board exam). The assessments are in addition to the course quizzes and exams. Proctoring the high-stake assessments can be beneficial as the students are exposed to the stress of being proctored. The proctoring service is part of the NCLEX preparation program and is purchased by the SON, not students. 

While multiple-choice assessments still accounted for the majority of their assessments in the didactic component of the course, giving students more opportunities to practice taking such assessments led to their success. Low-stakes quizzes (24 total) accounted for nearly 40% of the course grade while exams (3 total) accounted for 47% of the grade. Frequent assessment means students are recalling the content more frequently, which leads to improved knowledge retention and performance. Student feedback includes appreciation for the decreased anxiety in the quiz/exam environment and an increased feeling of self-efficacy in the clinical practice.

Live, Instructor-Led Proctoring for Multiple-Choice Stats Assessment

Kwame Sakyi, Public Health

Many of the 24 graduate students in my statistical methods in public health class were very anxious to use ProctorU. Some were anxious about how to use the technology. Others were concerned about privacy issues, or being kicked out of the exam for a violation of ProctorU procedures.

In response, I proctored their exam using Zoom with the help of a teaching assistant. The two of us broke the students into two breakout rooms. To minimize academic dishonesty, I put in place four main measures. 

  1. I made the multiple-choice component of their exam primarily scenario-based instead of retrieving facts or answering questions that are easily searchable on the internet. 
  2. I made a policy that students could not type during the multiple choice exam because answering the questions involved just clicking on answer choices. Ensuring this policy required having their microphones and cameras on during zoom, which introduces background noises that could disrupt students’ concentration. 
  3. Thus, the third guideline was for them to turn their sound volume down if they did not want to hear others (but they had to leave their microphones on). 
  4. The last modification was to make the written component of their exam based on analyzing real-life data I had, instead of solving abstract problems.

One perceived success of using Zoom, say over Google Meet, was that students could privately ask a question through the chat function. Students also reported low levels of anxiety with Zoom. Despite these benefits, there were two main perceived setbacks. 

  1. Occasional background noises, particularly during their first exam, were an issue because students were not required to turn their sound volume off. By the second exam, students understood the benefit of turning their sound volume down. One solution I use now is not to break students into breakout rooms.
  2. Relatedly, it was challenging to verbally clarify or correct a mistake on a specific question when students’ sound volumes were turned off--(they would not hear). I used the chat function to overcome this and posted messages multiple times. 

In summary, Zoom provides an option to minimize anxiety over ProctorU. This option may require both policy and technological challenges. Instructors should inform students ahead of time to leave their microphones and videos on, turn their sound volume off, and check their chat messages intermittently for any correction or announcement.

Live, Instructor-Led Proctoring for Handwritten Exams

Dan Steffy, Mathematics

My current approach for exam proctoring, which is also used by many others in my department, is to proctor my own exams using Zoom (or similar). Students (45 in a current class) are asked to join a video meeting and position their camera so that they and their workspace are in view, demonstrating that they are not accessing any unauthorized resources such as cellphones or computers as they work on their exam. Questions are solved on paper and photographed and uploaded to Moodle. I try to keep the specific details of the procedures as simple as possible and communicate them clearly in writing to students well in advance of the exam so that they know what to expect. Students are also informed if any recordings will be made. I have found that this practice deters cheating and I believe it is less stressful to students than some of the other proctoring technology tools available. Students seem to find this to be a reasonable step to help maintain the integrity and fairness of the exams. I also make every effort to otherwise reduce the stress surrounding exams and to help students be well prepared (and feel well prepared) for success on the exam itself.

References and Resources

Against Online Proctoring is a crowd-sourced curation of journalism, peer-reviewed work, and other material offering a critical perspective of online proctoring, particularly of remote proctoring services.

Silverman, S., Caines, A., Casey, C., Garcia de Hurtado, B., Riviere, J., Sintijago, A., Vecchiola, C. (in press). What happens when you close the door on remote proctoring? Moving towards authentic assessments with a people-centered approach [article: 8 pages].To Improve the Academy. Written by U-M Dearborn staff, the authors shared how they approached assessment as a whole institution when the institution did not allow remote proctoring services.

Remote Proctoring, from the Tea for Teaching podcast (29 minutes)

Twitter thread on alternatives to high stakes assessments in STEM (publicly available)

From e-Learning and Instructional Support

These and more are in the Moodle Help Library under Quizzes.

If you use ProctorU, provide students a proctoring guide for students (see also the proctoring intro for students video). These and more resources are offered on the online learning resources for students page. 

Academic Integrity, Plagiarism and Cheating: Faculty Resources

Save and adapt a Google Doc version of this teaching tip.

Lynda Poly-Droulard is an adjunct assistant professor of nursing at Oakland University. Kwame Sakyi is an assistant professor of public health at Oakland University. Daniel Steffy is an associate professor of mathematics at Oakland University. Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC.View all CETL Weekly Teaching Tips. Follow these and more on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.