Digital assessment security is a highly discussed topic in the Ed-Tech community. The use of digital assessments in education has led to increased concerns of academic integrity. While digital assessments have more advantages than the outdated pen-paper method, they are open to a lot of criticism in relation to academic integrity concerns. However, cheating can be eliminated using the right tools and best practices.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of creating secure digital assessments, let’s define cheating.
What is cheating?
Cheating refers to actual, intended, or attempted deception and/or dishonesty in relation to academic or corporate assessments.
Some smart ways in which examinees cheat in digital assessments include;
- Plagiarism– Taking someone else’s work and turning it in ones own.
- Access to external resources– Using external resources such as the internet, books, etc.
- Using freelancing services– Paying someone else especially from academic freelancing sites such as Studypool to do the work for you.
- Impersonation– Letting someone else take an assessment in one’s place.
- Abetting cheating– Selfless acts such as releasing exam papers early, or discussing answers with examinees who have taken the exam.
- Using remote access tools to get external help.
When addressing digital assessments infidelity, most professionals ask the wrong questions. How do we stop cheating? Or which digital assessment security techniques should we use?
But we believe that is not an effective way to approach this problem. The right questions ask are; why do students cheat? how can we make students/employees be confident enough to take assessments without cheating? Which digital assessment tools address all the weakest links in the digital assessment life cycle? For instance, by integrating techniques such as adaptive testing or multistage-testing, the students and employees feel confident to take exams.
In this blog post, we are going to share digital assessment techniques and best practices that can help you create effective assessments.
Part 1: Digital assessment security techniques
Online/Remote proctoring is the process of monitoring digital assessments. This gives supervisors and invigilators the freedom to monitor examinations from any location.
1. Online Proctoring
To increase assessment security in this process, you can utilize these methods;
- Image Capturing
This is a technique used to increase the effectiveness of online testing by taking photos of activities in a given interval of time. The images are later analyzed to flag down any form of infidelity detected in the image banks. This is a basic mechanism, yet effective in situations where students don’t have access to a stable internet connection.
- Audio Capturing
This one is almost similar to image/video capturing but keeps track of audio logs. The audio logs are later analyzed to identify any voice abnormalities in the surrounding environment. This eliminates risks such as getting help from family members or friends in the same room.
- Live Video Recording and/ Streaming
This is the most important element of security in digital assessments. Live video streaming keeps the candidate under constant surveillance and invigilators can suspend the examination if they notice suspicious behavior. Some online testing tools are even integrated with AI systems to help in the process of identifying suspicious activity. Video recording on the other hand works like audio capturing.
The video is recorded, stored in the cloud, and later analyzed to spot any suspicious behavior.
To give you the freedom to be creative and flexible in the assessment process, Assess.com even lets you bring your own proctor.
2. Lockdown Browser
High-speed broadband and access to hundreds of tools to do anything. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to cheat? Yes, to some extent. However, with the lockdown browser feature, students are limited to one tab, the one hosting the exam.
If the student tries accessing any external software or opening a tab, a notification is sent to the invigilator. The feature starts by scanning the computer for video/image capture. Once the test begins, the examinee is restricted from surfing the internet for answers.
3. Digital assesment security through AI Flagging
As seen in the article 10 EdTech Trends and Predictions To Watch Out For, In 2021, we saw that AI will increase in popularity in Ed-Tech. Not only can facial recognition (which is a form of AI) be used to increase security on campus but also in digital assessment.
By using systems integrated with AI systems, supervisors can identify suspicious behavior and take action, in real-time. Some actions the AI systems are able to identify include two faces in one screen. This feature works in hand with video streaming/recording. This helps increase examination integrity while cutting back on costs.
4. IP-Based Authentication
Identity authentication is an integral step in achieving the highest form of academic integrity in digital assessments. IP-Based authentication uses a user’s IP address to confirm the identity of students undertaking the exam. This comes in handy when examinees try to cheat by offering remote access to other users. In a recent paper exploring, e-authentication systems, other components of authentication may include biometric systems, mechanisms, knowledge, and document analysis. Using IP-Based authentication in digital assessment may decrease some risks of cheating.
5. Prevent Cheating By Data Encryption
Cybercrimes have become a threat to many industries. Education is one of the industries that face a lot of challenges when it comes to information security. In fact, according to a recent study, 83% of schools in the UK experienced at least one cyberattack, despite having protection mechanisms such as antivirus software and firewalls. Another research also discovered that education records could be sold as high as $265 on the black market.
This kind of insecurity finds its way into digital assessment because most tests are developed and delivered online. Some students can get early access to digital assessments or change their grades if they can find a loophole in the digital assessment systems. To prevent this, it is important to implement cybersecurity practices in digital assessment systems. Data encryption is a key part of ensuring that exams and personal data are safe.
- Audit Logging
The audit logging function tracks user activity in all aspects of the testing process using unique identifiers such as IP addresses. It keeps track of all activities including clicks, stand-by time, software accessed during the assessment, and so much more! These logs are then analyzed for signs of infidelity.
Part II: Digital assessment security best practices
Most of the technologies discussed above focus on the last few stages of the evaluation process. The strategies below focus on techniques that do not fall under the main stages of the process, yet very critical.
1. Creating Awareness On Cheating
Many institutions don’t create enough awareness of the dangers of cheating in relation to academic integrity. You can use media such as videos to give them guidelines of how to undertake exams authentically, and what is considered cheating. This prepares the students to undertake the exams without thinking about cheating.
2. Don’t Use Publisher Item Banks
Course textbooks and guides may come with complimentary test banks, and you should refrain from using them in assessments. This is because most course materials are available on the internet, and may encourage infidelity. Instead, make up your own questions, based on your learning objectives and methodologies.
3. Disable Backtracking
This increases learning efficiency by making sure that students answer what they know, and locate their weakest links. By facilitating backtracking, you give the students time to go back and try to locate the correct answers, which reduces effectiveness.
4. Diversity In Question Types
Fear of Failure is one thing that makes examinees cheat. By creating diverse question types, you improve the assessment engagement of the students, therefore improving their confidence. Don’t give your examinees multiple-choice questions only, add in some yes/no questions, essays, and so on.
5. Make Them Sign Academic Integrity Contracts
Contracts have a psychological effect on people, and the examinees are more likely to be authentic if they sign some form of contract. The contract can be tied to the policies around academic integrity.
If you are interested in other best practices to increase online assessment security, here is an important resource that can help.
Digital assessment security is an important aspect of online education and should not be ignored. Despite the immaturity of existing frameworks and methodologies in the market, techniques such as remote proctoring, lockdown browser, and audit logging have proven to be effective.
Creating and delivering high-quality digital assessments is not a walk in the park. If you need professional help in creating online assessments with alignment to the best psychometrics practices, contact Assess for a free consultation.