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Posted by John Kleeman, Executive Director and Founder

One of the huge benefits of tests and assessments is that they help equity and diversity. You can’t pass a test because of who you know, or because you are in the right “club” or because of who you are related to; you have to show the skill and competence needed to do well at the test.  

Online proctoring, where someone takes an exam at home or in their office, with a proctor or invigilator observing them over video is generally a gain for equity and fairness. Someone who lives a long way from a test center or educational institution can take the test without having to travel. And a less abled person who has their IT system at home set up to allow them to communicate effectively can use it rather than having to make a difficult journey and then use an unfamiliar test center system.

There are privacy challenges videoing people at home. The Netherlands Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens) has recently produced some well thought through privacy guidelines on using online proctoring within Dutch education in Dutch. The guidance is broadly similar to that produced by other regulators and industry bodies in that online proctoring is legitimate under privacy legislation provided very careful measures are taken to ensure that test taker privacy is maintained. (For some general international guidance, see the Association of Test Publishers “Privacy Guidance When Using Video in the Testing Industry”, which I was the lead author for, available on Amazon.)

The Netherlands guidance is very test taker focused. Some of the things it suggests are:

  • Consider whether any test takers may be excluded from the process
  • Consult test takers or test taker communities
  • Consider providing alternatives if test takers present reasonable objections

I think it’s worth others thinking along these lines as it’s important that testing organizations and testing vendors put test takers at the heart of the process. The reason we test is ultimately to help those we test – to get a qualification or digital badge, to show their competence or to have an opportunity. Test security really matters because the validity of the test depends on it, but so does being fair to test takers.

Some questions I think it’s important testing organizations offering tests remotely should ask:

  1. What is someone supposed to do if they don’t have the right computer or they don’t have good enough bandwidth at home to take the test?
  2. What should someone do if they live in a small home that doesn’t give them private space to take the test (e.g. a single parent who has children at home)?
  3. What should someone do if they have an accessibility challenge, they cannot deal with at home (e.g. they need a scribe to type for them)?
  4. Should a female test taker be able to insist on a female proctor?
  5. Can you maintain test security but still allow the test taker to take comfort breaks, especially with long exams?

There may be different answers to these questions, depending on who is doing the testing. For example, if you are conducting an IT certification, it may be reasonable to expect the test taker to have a good IT setup, but in other contexts you may need to consider backup options at local colleges or libraries.

Ultimately you need to ask the test taker. Testing is a partnership between those giving the tests and those taking them, a collaboration for mutual benefit, and when we remember and follow that, everything else follows naturally.

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