What is online proctoring: a comprehensive overview


In the wake of the changes brought about by the 2020 pandemic, our relationship with technology changed, and so did the way we learn. Suddenly, online learning became the norm across all stages of the learning journey: K12, higher education, and corporate training. And with a shift towards online learning comes the need for fair assessments – that’s where online proctoring comes in.


As the world embraces online learning, it's only natural that the way we test and assess is evolving too. We've put together some information in this article to give you an overview of exactly what online proctoring is, how it works, why it's important, and how it's reshaping the way we assess knowledge in the digital age.


Table of contents:

What is online proctoring?

What do online proctors do?

Who is online proctoring for? 

What are the different types of online proctoring 

Can AI proctors detect cheating? 

What type of violations can be flagged during an online exam?

What can online proctoring be used for?



What is online proctoring?

By definition, proctoring is the act of monitoring people taking an exam to ensure that there’s no cheating. Proctoring is done by a proctor. The proctor is usually a qualified, neutral individual who will verify a test-taker’s identity before the exam and be present throughout the entirety of the exam to monitor the process and ensure no exam rules are broken.


So, you’ve probably guessed it already, online proctoring refers to the digital surveillance of online exams.



What do online proctors do?

The main responsibilities of an online proctor are:

  • Oversee the delivery of remote exams
  • Ensure candidates comply with rules and regulations
  • Prevent and report exam rule violations


But proctors aren't there to scare exam candidates and add an unnecessary layer of anxiety. Let's do away with the image of the unpleasant supervisor. The proctor is there to ensure that the examination process is secure and fair. For everyone. Each candidate gets the chance to show their knowledge and skills with confidence.


Basically, having a proctor there is all about ensuring the exam is impartial, giving every test-taker an equal shot, and making everyone feel like they can trust the process.



⚠ Proctor ≠ Examiner

Important: A proctor is not an examiner. An examiner’s main responsibility is to assess the candidate’s knowledge. The main purpose of a proctor is to monitor candidates during an exam to ensure that all rules are followed and to report any suspicious behavior.



Who is online proctoring for?

In short, any institution or organization offering online assessments.

The main users of proctoring services are usually higher education institutions, businesses, larger companies with their own training centers, or independent certification centers. They typically organize online exams using a Learning Management System (LMS) or their own assessment platform, and integrate a proctoring solution of their choice to control the exams. But the scope is much wider than that.


In fact, online proctoring is useful not only to those organizing the exams but also to the candidates taking them. For example, it caters to students looking for flexible and convenient exam options, busy professionals looking to upskill, and remote learners requiring accessible assessments.


Whether balancing work and study, living in a different time zone, or simply needing a secure assessment process, online proctoring is the link between modern needs and traditional assessments, offering a smooth and reliable exam experience.



What are the different types of online proctoring?

There are different types of online proctoring available, with each approach offering unique advantages. Let’s take a look at the most common types:


Live proctoring

With this method, candidates aren’t alone during their online exams. Professionally trained human proctors and smart AI tech team up to monitor the candidates in real time. This dynamic duo keeps a sharp eye on behaviors and actions to ensure a fair test environment. The AI aspect adds an extra layer of accuracy by uncovering hidden violations as they happen. No shortcuts allowed!


Post-exam review proctoring

Here, your exam journey is meticulously recorded by the software. Once the candidate has completed the exam, a proctor reviews the recordings. In this approach, AI can also send candidates notifications during their exams, which are then archived and can all be consulted by the proctor afterwards. It's like a virtual checkpoint to ensure that everything’s gone according to plan. This method is cost-effective, as it doesn’t require real-time monitoring. Plus, an in-depth examination of the recorded sessions increases the legitimacy of the results.


Automated proctoring

Imagine taking an online exam and having AI take care of the supervision all by itself. This is what we call automated proctoring. AI-based tech takes over and makes sure everything runs smoothly without the constant gaze of human proctors. This type of monitoring is fully automated and requires only occasional technical support. It's a hands-off approach that ensures exam integrity without relying heavily on human resources.



Can AI proctors detect cheating?

Yes, AI-powered automated surveillance can detect cheating during online exams.


Using advanced algorithms, it can monitor numerous factors such as mouse movements, eye gaze, and background noise. AI’s keen attention helps to identify suspicious behaviors and irregular patterns that could suggest a candidate is breaking an exam rule.


AI proctoring offers a multilayered approach to maintaining exam integrity. Not only does it detect cheating attempts, but it can also prevent them through real-time alerts to both candidates and instructors.



What type of violations can be flagged during an online exam?

The types of violations that can be reported depend very much on the entity conducting the exam. Violations can range from minor to major, and in some cases result in immediate dismissal.


But, in most cases, the violations are quite similar to those you would encounter during an in-person exam. However, some added issues, specific to remote assessments, exist to ensure compliance in the comfort of your own home:


  • Suspicious eye movement: Rapid and frequent eye movement, usually in a specific spot could indicate that the candidate is looking at notes or reference material.                
  • Background noise: Excessive background noise or conversations will be reported, as they may suggest that the candidate is receiving unauthorized assistance.                
  • Tab change detection: Tracking multiple tab changes or frequent switching between applications may indicate that the candidate is accessing external resources or looking for answers online.                
  • Unauthorized use of devices: If a candidate is caught using a smartphone or another electronic device that is not permitted during the exam, it would be considered unauthorized use.                
  • Unauthorized person: If the system detects faces or people other than the candidate themselves within the camera frame, this may suggest that an unauthorized person is present in the room and potentially assisting the candidate.                
  • Absent candidate: If the candidate disappears from view from the frame.


In all cases, the violations reported may be mishaps, such as a child entering the room or a dog barking in the background. In such instances, these flags can be reviewed and dismissed.



What can online proctoring be used for?

An online proctoring solution can tackle many challenges when it comes to remote assessments. Some of its capabilities include:


Identification: Ensures accurate candidate authentication through AI facial recognition or manual identification via ID/facial photos.


Computer checks: Verifies the candidate's webcam, microphone, and Internet bandwidth before granting access to the exam.


Live streaming: Provides visual and auditory monitoring of candidates in real time.


Behavior analysis: Analyzes video and audio data, detects potential candidate misbehavior, and facilitates timely intervention by proctors.


Exam storage and logging: Stores previous exam media and maintain a comprehensive database of candidates, proctors, sessions examined, and more, enabling retrospective review if required.


Mobile proctoring: Extends capabilities via native mobile apps for iOS and Android to ensure flexibility and accessibility.


Comprehensive reporting: Generates detailed reports on proctored exam sessions within specific timeframes, contributing to effective evaluation and analysis.



Interested to know how online proctoring can support your online assessments?


As you may have noticed throughout this article, online proctoring has many facets, and as technology continues to evolve, so will proctoring solutions.


Since 2015, Constructor Proctor has been developing cutting-edge AI expertise to meet the security and integrity needs of today’s assessments, from high-stakes exams in higher education to language assessments as part of onboarding processes, to technical certifications for professional development.


Discover first-hand how Constructor Proctor works and how it can be adapted to meet your needs. After all, you deliver the exam. You set the rules. We’re here to make sure that the experience is smooth and secure.