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Secure Online Exam Capability: Dimensions And Trade-Offs

Samar Zutshi (Swinburne Online, Australia)
Lynn Colgin (ProctorU, USA)
Session Information
October 15, 2015 - 2:30pm
Institutional Strategies & Innovations
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Blended Program/Degree
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Oceanic 5
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 8

The paper presents a framework outlining institutional capability needed for secure online exams. It also provides examples from a real world case.

Extended Abstract

Higher education institutions typically rely on pen-and-paper exams as a form of secure and authenticated assessment. As such, these kinds of exams continue to remain, by and large, offline and non-digital - unlike other assessment and learning materials. For providers of online and blended education, the capability to deliver secure online exams would be a significant enabler in terms of meeting student requirements and expanding geographical reach. However, unproctored online exams may not be an acceptable alternative due to perceived or actual increased likelihood of cheating (Beck, 2014; Harmon & Lambrinos, 2008). In this presentation we present a framework outlining the various components of secure online exam capability. The framework emphasises that while such capability has an important technological component, other aspects are equally important. The framework identifies three key dimensions:

- proctoring capability
- assessment digitisation capability
- student data management capability.

Security is conceptualised as a requirement that cuts across all three components. For a visual representation, see Zutshi (2015).

Various policy, pedagogical and process improvement aspects are discussed with respect to the framework. We also use the framework to articulate a number of key decisions an institution needs to make while developing such capability. The trade-offs that need to be made are discussed with examples from an institution where the authors have been involved in a project trialling and rolling out secure online exams over the last three consecutive trimesters. The dimensions and trade-offs will help attendees identify ways forward for harnessing the potential of secure online exams – we argue that online exams can be designed to be more authentic assessment (Ashford-Rowe, Herrington & Brown 2014) than pen and paper exams while maintaining comparable levels of security. The session will be of interest to higher education IT faculty and administrators who might be asked to deliver secure online exam capability, faculty and administrators considering implications of digital assessment and also for vendors of secure digital assessment technology.

Ashford-Rowe, K., Herrington, J., & Brown, C. (2014). Establishing the critical elements that determine authentic assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(2), 205–222. http://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2013.819566

Beck, V. (2014). Testing a model to predict online cheating—Much ado about nothing. Active Learning in Higher Education, 15(1), 65–75. http://doi.org/10.1177/1469787413514646

Harmon, O. R., & Lambrinos, J. (2008). Are online exams an invitation to cheat? The Journal of Economic Education, 39(2), 116–125.
Zutshi, S. (2015, April 26). Secure Online Exam Capability [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.rawsense.org/2015/04/this-is-visual-that-i-use-when.html

Lead Presenter

Dr Samar Zutshi is one of the founding team members at Swinburne Online, a startup Australian provider of fully online, accredited university programs. Swinburne Online (SOL) is a partnership between Swinburne University of Technology, a traditional university, and Seek, Australia’s largest jobs website. SOL was featured in the Business Review Weekly (BRW) top fast starters 2014 list and is an accredited 2014 Aon Hewitt Best Employer. Samar has lead online exam pilots with multiple remote proctoring providers. He continues to lead the implementation of secure online exams for improved pedagogical and practical student outcomes. In addition, he has previously been a tenured university faculty member. Samar has a PhD in Information Technology and has presented at a number of international conferences, including Online Educa Berlin. Samar’s current research interests include online education and assessment.