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Whether you are a long distance student or are taking some online courses, there are multiple options for proctored exams. The rules on who can be your proctor are most likely listed on your school website. Before you pay for a proctor make sure your class requires one!
In this article, I will talk about the online proctoring service I used for two of my classes during summer—ProctorU.
How It Works
The concept of the program is pretty simple. After you set-up an account, you can designate ProctorU as your proctor for whatever courses you are using it on your school website if it is approved by the institution. You can schedule your exams anytime (when you do, it has a factor in the price which will be discussed in a later section). A timer will appear, counting down to your next exam. When the time comes, a button will appear allowing you to start the exam. Note that if you do not click the button within 15 minutes of your scheduled time, your session will be canceled.
Once as you click the button, you will be asked to download a program that will allow you and your proctor to talk through a chat box. While you are waiting, you can also take a picture of yourself and show a photo ID, which are both required before you begin. You will also have to answer a few quick questions to verify your identity. When your proctor is ready, they will establish a video chat with you. To verify that you are alone in a room that meets their described requirements, you will be asked to give a quick pan of your room. Also, make sure to keep your phone or a mirror nearby as you will need to show them the four corners of your screen and your keyboard.
The proctor will also take control of your desktop to ensure there are no duplicate or extra tabs open. You will then be given back control and asked to navigate to the exam. After they input the password, you are on your own. Your camera and mic are used to monitor you while you are testing. After you are finished, message your proctor through the chat box and they will give you instructions from there. Do NOT exit your exam without receiving instructions to do so. You will be asked to answer a quick survey on the program and proctor before you exit the site.
One of the greatest benefits of this online program is the convenience. You have complete control of when you schedule your exam (as long as it is in the time frame provided by your instructor of course). Not a morning person? You can schedule it for the night. Want to have a couple of extra days to prepare? Schedule it closer to the deadline. You have control of when you take the test. This may be a huge advantage over an in-person proctor as they may have time conflicts or are unable to reschedule on short notice.
Where you take the exam, however, may be a different story. Due to the nature of online proctoring, you cannot have others in the room or constantly walking by. You will need a private room that is well lit so your proctor can see you. Remember that they will be taking pictures of your room through your camera so make sure you put some time aside to make sure it is clean! Sitting on the bed or floor is also unacceptable unless you have been granted permission for a disability. You will need a clean desk with nothing but what is allowed during the test.
My first time using the ProctorU, I was not too impressed with the service. The woman had a very thick accent (not that she can help it) that made it difficult to understand her along with static coming through the mic. I could tell she seemed a little annoyed with me asking her to repeat herself but I needed to know what was going on. Needless to say, it took over an hour to set up my first exam.
On the other hand, I was more than pleased with the service I had during my second exam. We did not have any technical difficulties and my proctor was very clear on the instructions and what he needed from me. Part way through my exam, my proctor switched and I did not even know until I exited and realized there was a different man in the video chat. The switching of proctors causes no bugs or glitches.
Being an online service, there are some technical problems. The video may come in choppy or cut out at times. On multiple occasions, the errors were coming from their side. This may be due to distance or internet connection problems. Whatever the cause, there is tech support that is usually able to help. However, this also causes your set up to be longer and can stress you out before your big test. Not a good mix!
You cannot designate a specific proctor. It is understandable that they are on strict schedules and are often proctoring multiple students at once, but it would be a nice option to have.
The cost may vary by school but most of mine have been around $20. Some in-person proctors may be free and therefore are better in that aspect. One such may be military officers, who are often approved by the school. However, each proctor sets their own rates so it is best to look around for the best option.
ProctorU generally has three prices per hour. The cheapest is if you schedule at least 72 hours (three days) in advance. The other options are "take soon" (within three days) or "take now" (on demand). Another factor in cost is how long your exam is. This is one of the things that I don't like. You have no flexibility when it comes to the time allotted. If your instructor gives you two hours, you are charged for two hours. One of my courses allows up to two hours for an exam. Every exam has only 50 multiple choice questions so I know I am only going to take about an hour, maybe one and a half. You cannot select a lower amount of time however. Even if you do not use all of the time you have been given, you will get charged for it. This cost me over $5 more (not much but it adds up after multiple exams). For my school, the charge for one hour is about $14 and for two it is about $21.
You are also charged in advance. Many people do not like this but I can understand why it is done. Being an online program, you kind of have to charge people ahead of time so they do not skip paying. However, if you are taking multiple exams it can be costly and is a pain when you do not have the money on hand.
Overall, I have very mixed feelings about the program. I would definitely look into other options first, but it is not the worst to go with. The price of paying for multiple exams is high when you are trying to save up to pay for the credits in the first place. There are also many technical issues and frustrations that may come with the set-up. Getting stressed out before your exam definitely hurts your grade. However, the website is easy to navigate with clear instructions/tips and there is a convenience in picking your own exam time.
Also, note that it is important to follow all instructions given. Not following the stated rules may result in your exam score being thrown out. Make sure to test your equipment, which you can do through their website, before the exam. Keep in mind that everyone has their own experience and this is my personal opinion. Study hard and good luck on your exams!