Faculty of Law
Benny shares his experience trialling a way to effectively e-invigilate his students’ online examination. The solution might be of interest to others in the university, or indeed, members of other universities who have to design or administer e-assessments for their students.
In light of the recent COVID-19-related measures, I had to convert my on-campus face-to-face course examination (for LC1001E “Criminal Law”) to a take-home online examination. This gave rise to my concern that not proctoring the online exam in any form would significantly increase the likelihood of cheating among my students. My concern stemmed not from a desire to punish those who would cheat, but rather, from the unpalatable unfairness that those who do not cheat might experience if those who cheat got away scot-free.
I was particularly uneasy about cheating in the form of students collaborating with one another or third parties during examinations that are not carefully proctored. Indeed, a study by King, Guyette, and Piotrowski (2009) found that 73.8% of university students surveyed felt it was easier to cheat in an online class, while others such as Watson and Sottile (2010) observed in their research that there is a real risk of college students cheating in online assessments by collaborating or sharing answers with each other.
I thus designed a method to e-invigilate, my students, during their online examination in early May 2020, and found that it worked successfully. I had 50 students in my course. The examination was a 3-hour open-book paper with hypothetical questions, and students had to provide prose-based answers. Although this renders the ease of cheating lower than in multiple-choice questions or short answer-type examinations, it remains possible for students to cheat—for instance, by discussing among themselves what the key issues are or what the relevant rules to cite are, etc.
If one had to e-proctor an online examination, there are two potential avenues of cheating:
(a) a student communicating with another person face-to-face or through the use of a personal device (such as mobile phones), and
(b) a student communicating with another person via a laptop or desktop that he or she is using to complete the examination (for instance Telegram Web, email).
To address (a), one could e-invigilate during the examination through Zoom. However, this alone does not address (b). Examplify, a software which NUS educators have licensed access to, can address (b) by blocking internet access on a student’s laptop or desktop. Nonetheless, for my examination, I wanted to allow my students to do research on the web where necessary to answer the questions.
My solution thus comprised of two concurrent components:
- E-invigilating my students through Zoom which mitigated (a).
- Requiring them to use a free-of-charge screen recorder application to record their laptop or desktop screen activity for the duration of the examination. The screen recorders suggested are Apowersoft Free Online Screen Recorder or Open Broadcast Software (OBS) Recorder for Macintosh users. At the end of the examination, I selected by random a number of my students to send me their screen recording, which I then scanned through in fast forward (using a simple video player such as VLC player) to pick up any attempt by them to communicate with someone else on their laptop or desktop. This minimised (b).
I share in detail the preparation before, during, and after the e-exam in the following video clips (click on the respective screenshots to play the clips):
Before the exam
During the Exam
After the Exam
I have also shared a sample of detailed e-invigilation instructions and a step-by-step guide to using the two-screen recorders previously mentioned. They can be found here.
This method of e-invigilation is not an absolutely foolproof measure against cheating. I doubt that any method of invigilation, even for on-campus face-to-face examinations, can ever be entirely foolproof. However, the e-proctoring method I shared appears to have deterred cheating. It is relatively fuss-free, at no added cost to the teaching staff and the university. Finally, the method can provide students who have no intention of cheating additional assurance that the examination is carried out with heightened fairness.
Benny TAN is Sheridan Fellow at the Faculty of Law. He teaches and researches in criminal justice-related areas, including criminal law, sentencing law, and evidence law. He is particularly keen on helping students learn industry-relevant skills, and in using technology to enhance teaching and assessment.
He is happy to discuss the details of the abovementioned method and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
King, C., Guyette, R., & Piotrowski, C. (2009). Online exams and cheating: An empirical analysis of business students’ views. The Journal of Educators Online, 6(1), 1–11. Retrieved from https://www.thejeo.com/archive/2009_6_1/king_guyette_piotrowski.
Watson, G., & Sottile, J. (2010). Cheating in the digital age: Do students cheat more in online courses? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 8(1). Retrieved from https://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring131/watson131.html.