Guest Blog Post: Verifying Academic Integrity with Data and Tangible Results


Ashley Norris, PhD., Chief Academic Officer, ProctorU

| No Comments | | Leave a comment


Academics are inherently focused on outcomes. They are passionate about making sure students obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful beyond a degree.  However, when discussing the prevention of academic dishonesty, many of those same academics focus on methodology rather than outcomes. The question, “how do you know your students don’t cheat?” is often answered with a list of preventative tactics rather than success metrics. But how do they know these methods are effective without relevant data showing real results? 

As technology evolves, the quality of data collected through online proctoring has increased substantially, offering even more value than its original intent of preventing academic dishonesty. This data offers insight into student behaviors related to assessment and academic integrity, helping instructors and administrators see trends across departments, courses and exam types. This aggregate data will lead to more effective business decisions when choosing which type of proctoring is needed to support a comprehensive academic integrity program for an institution. Partnering with an exam security provider that provides multiple solutions and scalable products gives administrators and professors the flexibility to customize their proctoring methodologies based on data-driven insights, rather than mere belief. By looking at an institution’s exam data holistically, we can provide a customized cheating risk index at a macro level across programs or at a micro level for individual departments and courses. 

University of Texas at Austin professor Mihran Aroian is an excellent example of how an individual instructor can use proctoring to prove academic integrity is being upheld. He is adamant that no student should be able to gain an unfair academic advantage. He implements different proctoring methods based on course value of the assessment.  He uses the automated proctoring with professional review for smaller, low stakes quizzes and relies on live remote proctoring for higher-stake midterm and final exams. This strategy not only verifies academic integrity, but also helps keep proctoring costs affordable. Professor Aroian explains, “When my quizzes were not proctored, the average grade was 99%. After adding ProctorU’s automated proctoring with professional review, the average grade dropped to 80% which was more in line with my expectations. There is an absolute direct relationship between a lower grade average and implementing the automated proctoring with professional review. I am significantly more confident that my students are unable to gain an unfair academic advantage.” 

The proctoring methods Aroian uses for his courses. 
The proctoring methods Aroian uses for his courses.

Furthermore, institutions can use this data to support accreditation applications and validate current accreditations. Lisa Clark, Ph.D., facilitator and program reviewer at Quality Matters, offers her professional opinion on how data can improve the quality and validity of online education, “When institutions partner with a proctoring service, the proctoring data collected can be an effective way to validate learner authentication and demonstrate that quality assurance measures are in place to uphold academic integrity.”

While many decision makers are primarily focused on methodology, it is important to see how it relates to outcomes. The online proctoring industry has several different ways to protect academic integrity: a live remote session, a fully-automated software-only session, and a combination of the two. While automated platforms come at a lower price point than other options, we have learned that automated proctoring (software only) without an instructor or professional proctor review of the exam session simply isn’t enough to prevent or catch cheating. Our data shows that less than 10% of automated exam sessions with potential integrity violations are reviewed. This is detrimental to the credibility of both academic institutions and honest test-takers because outcomes cannot be proven and academic integrity cannot be guaranteed.

The standard for academic institutions will only increase as the e-learning industry continues to grow. The demand for tangible results and prevention of cheating should be no different than the demand for high rates of student engagement and workforce preparedness. By focusing on the data collected through online proctoring and professional review services, we can meet these growing needs and raise the industry standard for academic integrity. Our partners then have the power to make real change at both the student and institutional level.  Connect with us on Twitter @ProctorU and tag us with your thoughts at #ProctorU and #DeterDetectPrevent.

Ashley has spent the past 13 years in higher education as both a faculty member and administrator across major institutions such as University of Alabama, Samford University and most recently, University of Phoenix in which she served as the Dean of Programmatic Accreditation and Regulatory Affairs. She has led thought leadership on ethics and integrity in education and continues to spearhead those efforts for ProctorU’s key initiatives on academic integrity. She also leads academic partnerships and works with organizations and institutions on developing policies, best practices and procedures to support their innovation and accreditation needs.

Leave a Reply