Networking Coffee Break - Coffee Talk With SmarterServices: Finding A Balance Between Student Privacy And Exam Monitoring

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Brief Abstract

Take a break from the rich idea sharing in the sessions with a virtual coffee talk. Grab a hot beverage and join us for an informal discussion and light networking as a connection between sessions.  A challenge for eLearning leaders is controlling the virtual testing environment while also providing students with the privacy and security they desire.  Join Carol Moody and Dr. Mac Adkins of SmarterServices for this important discussion.


Carol has worked with educators for over 20 years in a variety of roles including sales/account management, staff development, technology implementation/training, marketing/communications, and most recently as Senior Solutions Consultant/Sales Manager at SmarterServices. In her role at SmarterServices she enjoys helping administrators explore how to improve student success, protect academic integrity, and grow online/distance programs at their institutions. She has a Marketing Degree from Troy University and an M.B.A. from Auburn University.
Dr. Mac Adkins is the Founder and Chief Academic Officer of SmarterServices. He has been a higher education administrator for over 25 years and served as a Dean or Director of Distance Education for ten of those years. He has taught in the online doctoral program of Capella University for eight years and has taught online for Troy University for thirteen years. Dr. Adkins received his Doctor of Education degree from Auburn University in 1998. His major for the degree was Educational Leadership. He is a frequent speaker at educational conferences.

Extended Abstract

In response to the COVID-19 crises, more students are studying online than ever before. One of the hallmarks of higher education is that a degree or other credential is only awarded upon successful completion of some form of assessment through which the learner demonstrates their level of mastery of the subject. While some topics do lend themselves to forms of authentic assessment through projects or objects created, other topics are best measured by a typical exam. For the demonstration of learner mastery to be valid, the assessment needs to be administered in a controlled environment so that the learner’s responses are indicative of their knowledge, not other unallowed resources. To provide this controlled environment in an online course requires some form of digital monitoring - typically referred to as virtual proctoring. This form of proctoring is done through the use of a webcam which records the student’s environment as well as software that limits what the test taker can do on their computer as well as records all of the computing activity during the course.

However, students are often concerned about virtual proctoring in regards to their privacy. In some situations it is not optimal for the students environment to be displayed via the webcam. Examples could include a dorm room in which the other occupant has not given their consent or the home environment of a person living in poverty who could be embarrassed by their living conditions. Students have also expressed concern and distrust over the software that controls and monitors their computing device. Some maintain that the software could actually be malware that has malicious access to the computing device even after the testing session. In this coffee talk we will reflect on this challenge sharing perspectives based on our experiences as educators.