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Leveraging Remote Proctoring for Hands-on Online Exams

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With more institutions moving authentic assessments to an online setting, this article reviews how remote proctoring can be used to protect academic integrity for these remote hands-on exams.

While many think online proctoring can only be used for traditional question formats like multiple-choice and true-or-false, proctoring has come a long way.

Some proctoring solutions use a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) software and human review to proctor online exams that require hands-on tasks, such as handwritten math problems and essays, the use of software students are likely to encounter on the job, and even virtual demonstrations and presentations.

These hands-on exams are sometimes called authentic assessments, alternative assessments, nontraditional exams, or competency-based assessments.

This article describes how to use a blended online proctoring solution for the following hands-on exam situations:

  • Finance students using Microsoft Excel to complete a balance sheet
  • Nursing students completing a dosage calculation math problem
  • Psychology students conducting virtual mock counseling sessions

Understanding Blended Proctoring Solutions

Blended proctoring solutions use a combination of AI and human review to proctor online exams.

The examples in this article assume that the blended proctoring solution uses AI to monitor student behavior during the exam. If the AI detects potential academic dishonesty, it alerts a live human proctor, who will review the situation before deciding whether to intervene and redirect the student. This type of proctoring solution provides flexibility and customization and is proven to help reduce student test anxiety.Footnote1

Proctoring Software Use

Example: A finance student uses Excel to complete a balance sheet.

Record the student's screen during the exam activity.

The student's screen can be recorded while the student completes the balance sheet (and throughout the entire exam). The instructor can watch the exam recording to see how the student completed specific portions of the balance sheet.

Want to make it an explainer video?

In addition to recording the student's screen, instructors can also use voice detection to record the student speaking and get a transcript of what the student said during the recording.

This allows the instructor to watch the student complete the task within the balance sheet while listening to (or reading) the student's explanation.

Allow the use of Excel while preventing the use of other software.

A browser guard can be used to allow the student to only use Excel during the exam without being flagged. This tool also prevents the student from accessing other software, applications, and browsers and using specific keyboard shortcuts, like copy and paste.

Use video monitoring to ensure no unauthorized resources are in the room.

The student's webcam can be used to record the student's behavior during the exam and make sure there are no unauthorized resources in the room, such as cell phones, calculators, or notes.

What if a student has a disability or condition that prevents the student from completing the exam activity?

Instructors can give the proctor detailed instructions that provide accommodations for the student, such as alternative ways to complete the exam activity and permission to use assistive technology.Footnote2

Proctoring Handwritten Math Problems

Example: A nursing student completes a dosage calculation using pen and paper.

Apply settings that won't flag students for using paper.

The instructor can enable a setting called "Scratch Paper Allowed," which allows students to look down at their papers without the AI flagging them.

Provide students with detailed test rules and instructions.

Giving students specific instructions will help them understand what's expected and provide instructors with uniform responses. Following are some of the rules and instructions that can be included:

  • Use black, dark blue, or red pens only.
  • Complete one math problem only on each side of the paper.
  • You may use the calculator function on your desktop computer.
  • Hold the paper up to the camera before and after completing each question.
  • Upload your written responses to the LMS after showing your work.

Allow some resources, like calculators, but prohibit others.

Instructors can include proctoring instructions to allow things like calculators, class notes, or specific books while prohibiting other items, such as cell phones or other devices.

Detect cell phone use and voices.

Voice detection technology can detect when students use their cell phones [https://honorlock.com/exclusive#anchor-detect-devices] to access test-bank content during an exam. Instructors can use the software to listen for specific keywords like "Hey Siri" or "Alexa," for example.

Provide accommodations for students.

What if students have physical conditions that impact their ability to complete handwritten tasks?

Give the proctor instructions to provide alternative response options for specific students so that students can be allowed to use assistive technology to answer questions if needed.

Proctoring Virtual Demonstrations and Presentations

Example: A psychology student conducts a mock virtual counseling session.

During this counseling session, which is essentially a virtual presentation, students explain their approach to greeting a patient for the first time, discuss how they would establish a connection, and share the rationale behind the initial questions they'll ask during the session. Then, students will recite their questions out loud.

Record the virtual counseling session.

The proctoring platform uses the webcam to record the virtual counseling session for the instructor to watch.

Get a full transcript of what the student said during the session.

The proctoring software can detect voices and provide the instructor with a full transcript of what each student said during the exam activity.

A transcript allows instructors to key in on specific things the student says during the session, such as the student's introduction or certain questions, which can speed up the review process.

The transcript is also particularly helpful for instructors who are deaf or hard of hearing but still want to provide students with the ability to present virtually.

What if a student has a speech disorder?

If a student has a speech disorder, proctor instructions can be used to provide the student with alternative ways to complete the virtual presentation, such as allowing the use of text-to-speech assistive technology.

Creating an Easy-to-Use, Blended Proctoring Solution

Honorlock takes a different approach to proctoring online exams.

Instead of just trying to catch students cheating, we aim to create a test experience that is supportive, noninvasive, and easy to use.

Honorlock's blended solution [https://honorlock.com/exclusive/] combines sophisticated AI with live remote proctors.

The AI, which uses features like cell phone and voice detection, ID authentication, and test content protection, monitors each student's exam session and alerts a live, U.S.-based proctor to review and intervene if needed.

Just as AI is sophisticated, so is our proctor training. Honorlock's full-time proctoring team was trained by a nationally certified counselor and educator on how to help and support students during moments of test anxiety and frustration. This human-centric communication helps students gain confidence in the process and with our test proctors.


  1. Tyler Stike, "Higher Education Student Test Anxiety Survey," Higher Education & Online Learning Resources (blog), Honorlock, September 23, 2021. Jump back to footnote 1 in the text.
  2. Tyler Stike, "Creating Accessible Online Classes," Higher Education & Online Learning Resources (blog), Honorlock, May 10, 2021. Jump back to footnote 2 in the text.

Tyler Stike is Director of Content at Honorlock.

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