Studying for exams is critically important, but preparation is also the key to having a smooth process in taking a proctored exam at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
But what is a proctor anyway, and why is this type of exam necessary?
“In an online environment, students can be in any location, not necessarily on campus,” says Mike Williams, instructional technologist with UL Lafayette’s Office of Distance Learning, which supports online programs at the University.
“In a traditional classroom students would be monitored by the instructor or teaching assistant, but in an online environment, the teacher is not able to do that. A proctored exam allows students to be monitored using an online webcam and proctor, so test security can be maintained.”
The proctor is an approved, neutral person who supervises the test-taking over the internet, ensuring the integrity of both the test-taker and the test-taking environment. At UL Lafayette, there are two approved services for online test-taking, ProctorU and Examity. The class instructor stipulates which service students should use.
The two services are “virtually identical,” Williams says, and very similar in price, about $15 for a one-hour examination. The least expensive option is to schedule the test ahead of time; both services offer last-minute scheduling, but it’s more expensive and subject to availability.
Access both ProctorU and Examity through the link your instructor places in your Moodle course. Using this link will automatically log you into the proctoring service being used by your instructor. You will then be able to set up your account if you are a first-time user and schedule your proctoring appointment to take your exam.
Next, understand the timeframe you’ll have for the test. If the test is expected to take an hour, students need to schedule at least that amount of time before the end of the test-taking window that’s been established.
If the testing window is from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and a student schedules an appointment for 1:30 p.m., they’ll only be allowed 30 minutes to take the test. At 2 p.m., the testing window closes and students are no longer allowed to access the exam.
Williams recommends five important things to remember to make the testing process go smoothly.
“Preparation is where the magic happens,” Williams says, and students who experience problems often are not totally prepared. To start off, both services have videos on their websites that explain the testing process.
“Make sure you are aware of what to expect, and you’re not just showing up and hoping for the best,” he said.
For example, the proctor has to see the student at all times; students can’t get up and leave the room, and can’t be interrupted. The student will need to do a video scan of the testing room to show the proctor. The desktop and area around the desk will need to be cleared.
Test your Computer or Laptop.
There are a number of technical requirements for the computer being used to take the test.
“It shouldn’t be a mobile device like a Chromebook or iPad,” Williams says. “It must be a desktop or laptop computer that’s a newer model — four years old at the most. Older than that, students run into problems.”
Google Chrome and Firefox are the preferred browsers to use for the test, but they should be updated. If students have an automatic antivirus check that runs on the device, he says they should turn that off.
Both ProctorU and Examity have equipment testing procedures. Students should be sure and run that test on the computer they intend to use well before their testing appointment.
“That will help to avoid trouble down the road,” Williams adds.
In addition, it is best to use a wired Internet connection. A cell phone hotspot or WiFi could be unstable and lead to interruptions.
Review the Directions.
Study the exam instructions on the proctoring service websites and find out what resources are permitted prior to the exam. Will notes or a textbook be allowed during the test? The instructions will answer that question.
Check out the environment for the test ahead of time.
“A bookstore or coffee shop is not a secure testing location,” Williams says. “You should avoid any kind of public place, except for a library with a private room.”
All electronic devices should be turned off and put away. Interruptions must be avoided; if someone enters the area where you are testing, it will be marked as a testing irregularity or incident.
Know What to Do if Problems Come Up.
Both proctoring services have hotline numbers to call for technical assistance if students are not able to connect or have other issues.
“The proctor is their friend. The proctor tries to help them fix whatever is going on during the exam, and technical support people will also try to resolve the issue.”
If students have a problem, they should email the class instructor and copy email@example.com. The instructor will look into the problem in case it has affected more than just one student.
The tests usually go well, Williams says. When problems do arise, they typically happen when the WiFi signal is not strong enough, when the student is using a slow or older computer that can’t handle the processing needs of the proctoring environment, when the student leaves the testing area, or when someone interrupts.
“Ninety-five percent of things that are issues end up being things they could avoid ahead of time with better preparation,” he adds. “Things do happen, so prepare for it. Have the phone number for help next to you. Work with your proctor. If you need help, reach out.”