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‘I Am Confident Students Will Do Well on Their Online Exams’

Vice Rector Sergey Roshchin on taking proctored exams

© iStock

At the HSE Student Council meeting last week, students voiced concerns about the planned use of online proctoring during the upcoming final exam session. Vice Rector Sergey Roshchin responds to students’ most pressing concerns below.

Sergey Roshchin
HSE University Vice Rector

On June 10, final exams for the third and fourth modules will begin at HSE University. For the first time at HSE, they will be conducted completely remotely and, in some cases, with the use of proctoring. Some students have expressed anxiety and concern about the procedure; the word ‘proctoring’ is not familiar to everyone. Therefore, I will comment on some of the concerns that have been brought to my attention.

Generally, the anxieties students have expressed fall into two groups: first, the technical aspects and possible malfunctions that might occur, and second, the likelihood that the proctoring will make the test-taking experience more stressful.

First, you need to understand how new the proctoring procedure is. It has been actively used for educational purposes all over the world since about 2013, when online forms of education began to be used more widely. It is used by many universities (including the world’s leading ones) that offer online programmes and/or courses online.

Proctoring has been used actively in Russian education for more than a year. Leading Russian universities that offer courses to students of other universities on the National Platform for Open Education have already conducted tens of thousands of exams with proctoring.

HSE University alone conducted 10,000 online proctored exams in just the last year. Currently, due to the largescale implementation of distance education, 20,000 students from 60 universities are taking HSE courses and will take exams that are administered with proctoring.

In April of this year, the University successfully conducted doctoral programme entrance exams for 500 applicants using this technology. In addition, HSE has been working with Examus for our proctoring needs for a long time.

All of this has allowed us to gain a lot of experience with administering exams with the use of proctoring technology, and our experience shows that technical problems are not common and that the problem of equipment is being solved. We should also remember that students and applicants from numerous universities in other regions of Russia take exams at HSE, and you can’t say that the equipment they use is any better than what HSE students use. We have vast experience with proctoring technology; we are not using it for the first time. This is a proven form of technology that works.

Secondly, I’ll explain the extent to which HSE plans to use proctoring technology. Students quite rightly raise the question of whether exams should be creative in nature and therefore not in need of proctoring. This is a very correct approach in terms of the development of quality education.

In fact, only 17% of exams at HSE that are planned for the spring-summer session will be administered with proctoring. Is this a lot? Not at all. More than 80% of exams are either creative in nature or the instructors did not see the need for them to proctored. But in 17% of cases, instructors deemed proctoring to be necessary. And this is completely reasonable.

At HSE ICEF, which maintains high educational standards and implements requirements from the London School of Economics in its curriculum, 99.9% of exams are administered with proctoring technology—and this does not raise any eyebrows among the students. To the contrary, in this case, it is a guarantee of the quality of education, which should be the main value for both students and teachers.

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ICEF students and teachers share their experiences with exam proctoring technology

There are many concerns about not knowing or misunderstanding proctoring procedures. For example, it has been claimed that required testing of equipment takes up a lot of time and students have to spend time allotted for the exam waiting for technical support.

This is not true. First, the student logs in to the system and goes through the identification process. After that, you click the ‘Start Test’ button, and only then does the countdown begin. During the test, the proctor cannot and should not answer student questions; they can only record violations of the exam procedure.

The exam schedule specifically provides time for authorization and identification—usually, 30 minutes.

There are worries that while using automatic proctoring (without the presence of a proctor), the student will not know if they have made a mistake until they receive their test score. Statistics show that automatic proctoring procedures do not lead to a surge in low test scores. And, regardless of a test’s format, students do not always learn their scores immediately, so there is nothing new in this.

Something that has received a lot of attention are the technical requirements of proctoring: test takers should not take their eyes off the screen for a long time or leave their computer. These have led to many far-fetched scenarios and debates.

Past experience with proctoring (let me remind you, this is with tens of thousands of cases) shows that no one observes how many seconds a student has averted their eyes from their computer screen, and none of the proctors will cancel the exam based on this requirement.

In any case, the exam is not interrupted or canceled automatically. University proctors analyze the video and decide if a student appears to have cheated or not. This is usually obvious in the video.

There is nothing new about the requirement not to leave the zone of visibility. The same requirement is observed during onsite exams when students are prohibited from leaving the classroom. If a student wants to leave, they have to turn in their exam paper. Many of us have been taught this way, not only in Soviet and Russian universities, but foreign universities as well. Today, many instructors administer their exams in this way. This kind of monitoring is very strict but appropriate.

There can be exceptions, such as if a student does not feel well. Both offline and online, you need to give advance notice that you will need to take medication or that you will not be able to continue the exam. Then you can make an appointment to retake the exam. In this, too, there is nothing new.

Of course, if technical problems do arise, students have the right to appeal their exam score, just as they do for an onsite exam. This is obvious and does not even require discussion.

It should be noted that any form of assessment (including tests and exams) can be stressful. This goes for both offline and online forms of testing. As practice shows, in the latter case, students experience no more stress than with an onsite exam.

I am confident students will do well on their online exams. HSE students are very strong, they can handle a variety of challenges, and they are taught well by strong teachers.

Recommendations on what to do in case of technical trouble during a proctored exam.

May 27, 2020