If you’re anything like me, you always feel like people think you’re cheating on tests. Teenage years spent in big exam rooms caused me to be gripped by anxiety. What if the invigilator thinks I’m trying to copy somebody else’s work? Exam supervision adds to most people’s dislike of tests. There isn’t much I envy about the way students have to interact with university courses during the COVID-19 pandemic, but online proctoring is one of the few things that would have changed my school career. Have you been wondering how so many university students can sit exams at home? Avert those watchful eyes, and let’s have a closer look at just what online proctoring is and how it works. 

Proc-what now? 

Proctoring is one of those 10 points SAT words that you may feel a little embarrassed not to know. No shame here! Exam proctoring, or invigilating, is the process of monitoring learners while they sit an exam. It is common during standardized testing and university exams. Proctors are usually hired through an external company to ensure academic integrity. 

Online Proctoring

A surefire way to spread a virus is to gather a whole bunch of stressed people in one room, with the windows closed for several hours. But wait, how can people sit those important exams during a global health crisis? eLearning is one thing, but exams without another human to make sure you aren’t cheating? Enter online or remote proctoring software.

Additional reasons for online proctoring:

  • exam centers can be dotted all over the country and can be difficult to access by a learner
  • there is no way to ensure a proctor didn’t just sit there doing a crossword puzzle (true story)
  • test schedules can get longer and longer to ensure enough invigilators are available 
  • online tests that do not feature proctoring can have learners being impersonated by other people or using different methods of cheating

How does Online Proctoring Work?

Big brother is watching you! Students are monitored via an online proctoring software which makes use of:

  • a webcam
  • a microphone 
  • access to the screen of the exam candidate

3 Types of Online Proctoring

1. Live Online Proctoring

In this online proctoring version, the exam candidate is witnessed by a certified proctor in real-time. Audio, visual, and screen shares are viewed in real-time. On average, a proctor will monitor somewhere between 16-32 learners at the same time. 

Advantage: there is no need to gather exam candidates in one place. 

Disadvantage: it does not eliminate the need for scheduling and has the same amount of staff involvement as doing it in person. Additionally, it is one of the more expensive types of online proctoring. 

2. Recorded Online Proctoring

No real-time proctor monitoring is needed. Instead, the software records the test candidates’ audio, video, and screen shares. At a later stage, these recordings are looked over by a person at 3x to 20x speed. Anything that flags gets marked as suspicious and is looked at more closely later. 

Advantage: No need to set a specific schedule or location. Exam probands can be located anywhere and theoretically at any time. 

Disadvantage: We’re not rid of those pesky humans yet, which means it still costs more to employ a person to look over hours of footage. Additionally, a human error effect comes into play.

3. Advanced Automated Online Proctoring 

At this point, things start to feel a little bit like an episode of Black Mirror. Once again, audio, visuals, and screen shares are recorded by software while the candidate is taking the test. While it is recording, the system is also looking out for cheating using the built-in analytics. 

How does proctoring software ensure this?

  • checks for background voices who might be telling the candidate answers
  • looks out for suspicious objects such as textbooks etc
  • ensures the test candidate is looking at the screen with the test questions 
  • performs facial recognition to make sure the correct learner is sitting the exam
  • can limit itself to specific IP addresses
  • blocks the ability to copy/paste answers
  • can freeze the screen so the test taker can open no other applications at the same time

Advantage: all of the benefits of not requiring exam takers to be sat in the same room, but additionally, it requires minimal human interaction. 

Disadvantage: a person is still required to check flagged behavior. 

Can Online Proctors be Fooled?

If you’re looking for a way to cheat on a test: please don’t. Cheating doesn’t pay off, and you could lose a high stakes qualification. Maybe you should use all the time you’re using to research whether or not the system can be tricked to study. Go, go, go!

But, seriously, Can You Cheat with an Online Proctor?

Never say never. There are plenty of Reddit forums dedicated to unethical life hacks. However, online proctoring software and companies pride themselves on being as secure as possible. For as long as there have been exams, there has been cheating. Some of the innovative ways to cheat on an at home-exam are listed below. eLearning experts widely criticize these methods because they undermine the fantastic advances in the edTech market. 

  • screen sharing with another person who helps with questions
  • smartwatches and a whole gamut of James Bond-like tech
  • Fake identities

Who is the Online Proctoring Market?

Assessment partners are people who provide the created ready-made tests. If they can offer additional online proctoring services, they put themselves ahead of the competition. If integrated into their business model, they can scale globally. 

eLearning institutions such as universities are obviously in great need of validifying that their learners are using online exams without cheating. 

Additionally, certification agencies have a great need for online proctored testing, especially because recorded tests allow the organization to maintain accurate records for auditing purposes. 


Online proctoring is an essential part of creating fair test conditions in the online learning world. Using the reporting features found in many types of e-proctoring software can also give you useable data for your LMS. Catch those cheaters in their tracks.