Proctoring software like Proctorio, Examity, etc., has gotten a lot of attention as we’ve adapted to virtual teaching and assessment. Some of this attention has raised serious questions and concerns about student privacy and the bandwidth-demanding nature of such software. And yet faculty are naturally interested in taking steps to ensure academic integrity in their courses. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this set of ideas and resources for alternatives to third-party proctoring that still promote fairness and honesty.

Set up the space from the beginning to encourage academic integrity

Cheating happens for a lot of different reasons, which means that it needs to be addressed in multiple ways; we need to get beyond simple ideas about surveillance and punishment. For starters, proctoring solutions become less necessary when your students understand the rules of academic integrity in your course and when you make it clear that you value (and reward) that integrity more than their scores on any particular exam or assignment. It can therefore be helpful to implement course policies that encourage risk-taking (e.g., many low-stakes assessments rather than one or two high-stakes assessments; dropping the lowest score(s); allowing retakes or revisions). It’s also crucial to explain your expectations and your rules for what’s acceptable and what’s not, and why. That means explaining what students are and aren’t allowed to consult during exams (if anything), how much collaboration with classmates is allowed (if any), and the basis for these and any other rules. For more on all of this, see this resource from our colleagues at the University of Virginia.

Try alternatives to standard exams

Proctoring also loses its importance when you move away from timed, closed-book tests. If another alternative would work well for you—open-book tests with hard-to-Google questions, presentations, papers, collaborative exams, oral exams, etc.—consider going that other route and thereby eliminate the proctoring problem. One option is exams with reflective prompts that ask students to integrate concepts with one another or with their own experience; it’s hard to Google your way through questions like these and the metacognition (thinking about thinking) enhances learning.

Make tests more secure without proctoring

If you do go forward with timed, closed-book tests, there are ways to promote academic honesty without resorting to proctoring. As our colleagues at the University of California-Berkeley suggest, options include avoiding curves on exams, relying on more numerous low-stakes exams rather than fewer high-stakes ones, and using Canvas quizzes to randomize the order of questions and/or (in the case of multiple-choice) answers. You can find out more about Canvas quizzes here.

Try alternative proctoring options

Canvas and Zoom have become standard in virtual teaching at Georgetown, and students’ familiarity with those platforms may make them more comfortable than they would be with proctoring solutions like Proctorio. The Zoom chat can be used as a line of communication with the proctor throughout the exam. Of course, in case that channel fails, it’s helpful to share another way to reach you live, whether through email, a phone call, or social media channels like Slack.

Options when proctoring in Zoom include: 

  • Showing students’ work area and/or sharing their screen
  • Setting (restricting) chat options
  • Using breakout rooms to answer student questions or to check in on students 

Combining Tools

Some faculty have found that using Google docs in conjunction with Zoom gives flexible control over when files become available to students. Additionally, you may consider changing the file setting in Canvas to “available to students with link only” and then paste the link into a Canvas Quiz, set to be released at a given time for a group of students. You may combine this strategy with a synchronous Zoom session during the exam. 

We hope these ideas are helpful. If you have more questions, or ideas of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at cndls@georgetown.edu!