November 3, 2011

Taking tests at home, under the watchful eye of a webcam, monitored by a proctor.

It seems creepy to me, but maybe it's a good option for some people.


MadisonMan said...

I teach online and figure students are cheating on my exams by looking things up. Looking things up doesn't bother me -- when I can't find an answer to something (and let me tell you, that happens a lot), I look it up. Teaching kids how to do that quickly and accurately is beneficial, in my opinion.

Regurgitating memorized facts onto a piece of paper? How is that learning?

There are issues mentioned in that article that I would not have considered. Interesting to read.

Moose said...

Creeps you out? Why? You surf naked or something?

traditionalguy said...

I have taken on line exams to get a Florida license, and they run that test like a military operation presuming everyone who is not watched cheats.

Time limits are a big part of that computer test. Then you have little time to look up answers and had best already know them or the time bell stops you.

Curious George said...

Creeps you out? They knoew the camera is there...they chose to have it.

You do know that clandestine cameras are everywhere now. That should creep you out.

Christopher said...

Let's be honest, there is an unspoken agreement between teachers and students that take home tests will be slightly harder but that cheating will be allowed.

MaxTruth said...

Great idea. The quicker we can get rid of brick and mortar universities, the better.

Scott M said...


The very first thought I had was of a huge blackboard or dry-erase board, or simply a wall covered with taped-up notes, BEHIND, the webcam. Students routinely look up, away, close their eyes, etc to concentrate on recall. You would simply have to avoid looking like you're reading something off camera. If the whole thing required that the student pan the camera around the room to ensure something like that wasn't occuring, I can easily see students getting around that by simply rigging something to pop up after the pan, maybe via foot pedal.

Scoffing, you might say it's easier to just study. Heretic, I say. You don't go to college to learn things.

Freeman Hunt said...

I like the idea. I took a course through the University of London and had to go to a local testing center for my final exam. It was a pain, and the people at the testing center seemed disorganized. I would have loved to have been able to take the test at home in front of a webcam.

Bob_R said...

This is at least a good check on the identity of the test taker. It's pretty easy to get the ability to check to see if they are looking things up on their computer (or how they are looking things up if they are allowed certain resources.) We need to develop more and better tools like this if we want on line learning to do a better job.

Test taking is a pretty creepy experience in almost any form. I hate proctoring.

sniklacg said...

My wife is enrolled with WGU and has opted to take a couple of exams at home when it wasn't convenient to go to the local testing center.

It's a nice alternative, but she says that she prefers to go to the local testing center because it's quieter and easier.

A friend of mine does his tests at home in the evening after his kids are in bed which allows his wife to run to the store while he's home.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Regurgitating memorized facts onto a piece of paper? How is that learning?

How is it not?

Facts are tools. You can't build anything without tools.

Bryan C said...

"Facts are tools. You can't build anything without tools."

But no one expects a builder to bring every tool to every job. You pick out the tools you think you'll need, and leave the rest. If you need a tool you don't have with you, then you either improvise or you go find one.

jeff said...

dual monitors, and someone with a pc and a chalkboard behind the camera. While the student is answering the problems they know, the other guy is researching the ones the student isn't sure of and putting them on the chalkboard.

I think this is much like airport security. Makes students think that something is being done, but doesnt take much thought to get around it.

edutcher said...

This would be good for someone who's disabled (particularly if snow and ice make it hazardous to go out) or has a long-term illness.

Interesting for take-home tests, also.

Moose said...

Creeps you out? Why? You surf naked or something?

Well, Ann has said she occasionally blogs bottomless.

Of course, that was before she got married.

jimbino said...

Right. What if you have to go pee, during the exam, in a bathroom that just happens to have a computer online?

The best exam is one that presents a problem that encourages the student to use every available resource, including google and facebook friends, to help solve it.

One like: How many identical bricks can you stack to make a fake arch and how high and wide can you take it before it falls?

Or the classic: How do you determine the one fake ball and determine whether it is lighter or heavier among the twelve balls in three weighings on a balance scale?

In STEM subjects, it's often hard to "phone a friend" for the definitive answer. All tests not conceived to elicit thought and whatever available research aren't worth sitting for.

Peter said...

I think you're going to see a lot more of it, as distance learning replaces the expensive on-campus version and credentialling-by-exam edges out credentialling-by-seat-time (credit-hours).

Even if no one's watching, a recording can be made if questions arise later.

The only part that seems creepy is that you can never know whether someone's watching. Whereas you can keep an eye on an in-person proctor.

Heather Cromar said...

Well... it may be creepy, but it might be less expensive and more convenient than paying a proctor to monitor your child at the local library at $10/1 hour per test. It would be interesting to know. When we home schooled our five kids in CA, we were told that the bi-monthly tests required by UNL would come to about $300 monthly per child--plus about 12 hours of my time. Whoa! Contrast that with the ability to take the test at home at the child's/parent's convenience at a much reduced cost because the proctor is either built into the system or is proctoring multiple children at once.

A. Shmendrik said...

I took the bar exam in FL last year and was among ~3300 folks taking it. When you consider the expense of renting the convention center, all the travel and hotel costs for that many people (plus probably 75 people administering the thing), you'd have to think there was a better way.

25% of the exam was essay, which you had the option of taking on a laptop. I'd estimate that 70% took it that way, and the rest is the classic machine graded multiple choice form you fill in with a #2 pencil. I've been completing tests in that format since I started grade school over 49 years ago. When something remains the same for that long, you really have to question it.

There has to be a way of doing this with regional centers or other locations, or even at home. On the multiple choice sections the pace is rapid enough that if someone read the question, then surfed a nearby computer for something that would help answer the question, they'd fall behind.

I'm not sure what hardware fixes there could be, but the Examsoft software used for the essay portion was pretty impressive. You re-boot your computer into an isolated session and the software logs and time-stamps every keystroke. The resulting file is encrypted and you have to upload it within about 12 hours of completing that portion.