With the increasing importance of a college education, employees are actively seeking opportunities to earn a college degree without interrupting their busy lifestyles. Therefore, earning an online education has become an increasingly popular trend. In comparison to traditional learning, distance learning offers many advantages including providing the ability to set your own schedule and study time, the avoidance of wasting time and money to commute to campus, and the ability to continue maintaining a career while furthering your education. The majority of corporations are embracing the idea of their employees participating in this virtual world of education. However these companies along with universities are becoming concerned with whether or not students are retaining the material that is being taught. This has become a concern due to many universities authorizing students to take non-proctored exams.
A non-proctored exam allows students to take an exam at their location of choice within a scheduled time frame. Students are unsupervised with no one to monitor their use of materials throughout the exam. A proctored exam is a supervised exam. Students are responsible for arranging for a proctor to supervise them. The proctor must be approved by the university, and many universities require that the proctor be one of the following: school administrator, counselor, certified librarian, military educator, test administrator at a testing office, or a minister of an established church or synagogue. When a university is deciding whether or not to utilize non-proctored vs. proctored exams, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both, as well as their effect on final course grades. Non-proctored exams offer many benefits in the virtual environment. They can provide accurate results in low stakes situations where the temptation for cheating is minimized, they give students a sense of ownership and responsibility, and they offer convenience and lower costs to educators and students.
Although non-proctored exams offer many benefits, there are several disadvantages that should be a concern for universities. In an online learning environment there is no one reminding students about assignments being due or upcoming exams that are going to be administered. Of course, students are told the dates of exams, but when they know too far in advance, more often they will continue to push back studying until it’s too late. Not being prepared to take the exam could be a disadvantage that leads to cheating during a non proctored exam. In today’s society, the pressure to excel and receive good grades is growing. By having no proctors for an exam, students will get the extra urge to use resources for a test in order to meet those pressures of getting good grades. Another issue is the absence of verifying the student identification for non-proctored settings, it is impossible to know whether the registered student or a substitute has taken the test, or if students worked together on the exam.
While non-proctored exams offer the benefits of flexibility, convenience and lower cost, a proctored exam is the alternative testing structure with the potential for maintaining higher standards of integrity and for providing more accurate assessments of students’ actual learning and retention of the material. Instinct and anecdotal evidence would suggest that students taking non-proctored exams will cheat more often than students that are administered proctored exams. The primary argument that support this contention is opportunity. It is simply easier for test takers of non-proctored exams to cheat because they are not being monitored while completing their examination. Following the opportunity argument, proctored examinations also eliminate the possibilities of students working collaboratively, students obtaining unauthorized assistance from other people, and students having someone else complete the exam for them. Students cannot unfairly gain access to test questions and obtain answers to them, whereas an online non-proctored test taker might be again given access and allowed to retake an exam after alleged computer problems during the initial exam.
As has been implied, there is more to consider in determining the difference in final course grades that result from proctored and non-proctored examination delivery methods. Of particular importance here is the course content delivery method: The traditional classroom environment or an online learning environment. It is important to differentiate between the two mistakenly interchangeable terms learning and grades. Learning is more appropriately associated with retention and long-term understanding, whereas grades can be achieved by, and are more appropriately associated with short-term memory. In addition to the academic dishonesty potential discussed earlier, a student might earn a higher grade on a non-proctored exam in an online setting by simply memorizing and learning the answers to questions for purposes of passing the exam but without the effect of commitment to understanding and long-term memory.
The quality of online programs is questioned on a regular basis. Overall, advantages and disadvantages of proctored and non-proctored exams need to be weighed before implementing a testing environment. Each environment, based on its situation level, should determine which one is best in a particular scenario. Low stake situations don’t have a major, direct impact on academic achievement, whereas high stake situations affect course credit and certifications. Non-proctored tests in high stakes situations may provide the same benefits of convenience and low cost, but could compromise results due to a higher incentive for academic dishonesty. Considering the proposed testing environment, academic programs, students, faculty, budget are just a few factors to weigh when deciding which option is best for the institution. The debate of effects of non-proctored vs. proctored exams will most likely continue for years to come.