Athens State University—like many institutions of higher education today—is grappling with the challenges of a growing segment of students who take classes online. In fact, 51 percent of the two-year school’s student body takes classes exclusively online. To best serve those students by providing them with the flexibility to view course content anytime, anywhere, Athens State uses Tegrity lecture capture. However, that’s not where Tegrity’s benefits end. Today, the university is preparing a large deployment of Tegrity’s remote proctoring feature, which allows students to take exams in their own homes, while still ensuring the integrity of the results.
Athens State University is the oldest higher education institution in Alabama. We currently have 3,300 students and our average student is a 31-year-old working mother. Ninety-six percent of our students take at least one online course and 51 percent take their entire course load online.
We went with Tegrity in 2005 because we were trying to meet an accreditation requirement that our distance education classes be equal to our traditional face-to-face programs. We also wanted to address the fact that our faculty were feeling disconnected to online students.
Tegrity has helped create more of a relationship between students and instructors than what can come across in emails and assignments online.
We use Tegrity in a number of ways, including encouraging instructors to record 20- to 25-minute mini lectures that include anecdotes, storytelling, and other elements that don’t appear in texts but occur “on-the-fly” during lectures. Other key uses are in science and technology programs where recording complex problem solving is more effective than describing it in a text, and improved access to guest lectures for remote students.
While Tegrity has helped us transform the distance learning environment into a classroom- equivalent setting, the missing piece has always been testing. Testing with distance learners has many challenges: Finding times to take the test, students may have to pay for their own proctors, proctors must be vetted. So when Tegrity came up with remote proctoring, we thought we would give this a pilot test. The test has been so successful, we are implementing remote proctoring for the entire Accounting Department in the fall.
Tegrity 2010 already has the ability to capture students in testing mode and to review the results of the testing. And the functionality is free.
We set up tests in our LMS and then it is just a few clicks in Tegrity to set up the remote proctoring component. We give students detailed instructions—we did both video instructions and written instructions and Tegrity also gives you the option of adding your distance testing policy, such as “any cheating will mean a loss of privileges and all future tests will be required on campus.” This is definable by the instructor. And there are university-wide policies that can also be displayed.
GALE: The student is required to accept the policies before starting the test. Once that’s done, the recorder will pop up. If they have never used it before, it will automatically be installed.
Many times in your online classes, you may never see your students face to face. You may have no idea what they look like. In this case, before they start the test, they hold up their photo ID next to their face and take a still photo that remains with the test recording so we can determine that they are who they say they are. This is the most sure-fire way we have found to ensure the identity of the test taker.
HEMINGWAY: Once the test has been completed and the student has uploaded it, the instructor can go in and review the test for any red flags.
The test screen will show you the student’s webcam video as well as what was on their desktop during the entire testing time. This enables you not only to see that the same student who authenticated and started the test is actually taking it, but you can also see exactly what’s on their desktop. So if they go to other websites, check email or notes, all of that is visible. And there are other third-party programs that will lock down browsers so they cannot open other sites while they are taking the test.
Instructors can speed up the videos and view them at 8X normal speed, so you can really fly through them if nothing stands out as suspicious. You can also hear audio, so you can hear if something else is going on in the background while the student is taking the test.
There are challenges to implementing a remote proctoring program that we had to deal with. Such as:
- Student hesitation. Some students were reluctant. We set up a lab with webcams and recording devices. I told them that if they came to campus, they would use the same technology they would be using if they took it at home. I had 140 students take tests in the lab, the next time I had two students and the next time I had only one.
- Student equipment. You need to make sure students know they need to have a webcam. When we surveyed students, 50 percent of students already had this equipment. And those who had to go buy something spent between $20-$40.
- Course-specific instructions. It’s important to explain these requirements for students.
GALE: In the beginning of the semester, we gave the pilot students a very low-stakes test to get comfortable with the remote proctoring. The instructor went through each test and gave individualized responses to all students. They realized that we could really see them and it gave them a comfort level that the technology would work for them.
HEMINGWAY: We conducted a survey with students in the pilot program and found:
- 79 percent of our distance students did not ever want to come to campus. Many, in fact, live more than 90 minutes away.
- 77 percent of students took their tests between 4 p.m. and midnight; 48 percent took them on weekends.
- 71 percent of students wanted both video and written instructions.
- 65 percent said the remote proctoring was easy to use.
GALE: Finally, we found that students focused on the quality assurance aspects of remote proctoring, and felt that this kind of testing could enhance the reputation of their online degree with potential employers.
For the most part, even though there was nervousness in the beginning, students appreciated the flexibility, reduced costs and ease of use of the remote proctoring.
To view this web seminar in its entirety, go to: www.universitybusiness.com/ws071912