Face off: The Pro Proctor vs. the Grad Student

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Graduate students, pursuing lofty goals in academia and beyond, are normally a hardworking bunch. When canvassing grad students on any given campus, the normal answer is that, in between working and studying, an ordinary graduate student puts in 80-100 hours a week. In a typical graduate class, roughly three to five percent of the students are hired by the university to work as assistants and/or teachers during their tenure. Some of these individuals will likely be asked to sit in on exams and proctor them. At times, there will be one grad student in a room of 100+ students taking an exam. Think about that ratio – 1 proctor to 100 students. Moreover, these graduate students aren’t necessarily trained to be proctors – they may not know the signs to look for and they definitely can’t watch every single person through the entire exam.

At the other end of the spectrum from the grad student, sits the professional proctor. The role of a professional proctor is to closely monitor an individual taking an exam. A professional proctor is hyper-focused on upholding exam integrity and providing help to test-takers and institutions.

At ProctorU, our proctors go through an intensive training program that teaches the complete ins and outs of proctoring. Proctors are chosen because of their technical expertise, multitasking skills, and customer service savvy. Once hired, they are taught:

  • How to perform effective online identity verification
  • How to recognize inconsistencies, such as suspicious eye movements or sounds;
  • How to spot unpermitted materials;
  • How to thoroughly check the work area, including: the floor under the desk, the desk top, the front of the computer, the ceiling, each wall, under chairs, under beds, etc.;
  • How to check background computer processes that may be used to cheat;
  • How to handle minor technical issues.

Which sounds more effective in protecting exam security? One grad student monitoring 100+ students in a room or one professional online proctor watching three to four students?

Live Science paints this picture: The human mind can only focus on a total of about four things at once. “Working memory is a more active version of short-term memory, which refers to the temporary storage of information. Working memory relates to the information we can pay attention to and manipulate.” If the human brain’s working memory can only truly focus on and manipulate four things at once, then how could one graduate assistant watching hundreds of students taking their exams ever be considered effective?

As an innovator in online proctoring, we identified a gap in the market – a growing issue of academic dishonesty in online education – and we filled it. Even instructors of in-person courses are now taking advantage of online exams with professional online proctors – especially when those courses have a very high number of students.