Protecting the integrity of your certification exams

May 19, ’22 | Written by Kranthi

Certification programs are essential for a variety of stakeholders. Many employers require and or give preference to professionals with more certifications because completion can vouch for a person’s competence and commitment to an industry. This advanced knowledge gives applicants a leg up in the job application process with the potential for a higher salary. Clients of such companies can also rest assured of the quality of its workers and many companies can use certification statistics as a marketing tool.

However, with many regions in different stages of lockdown and test takers' varying comfort in sitting in an unfamiliar, potentially uncomfortable and unventilated space for hours at a time, certification programs should consider providing a remote option for their exams and training. Among some certifications exams that can currently be taken online are the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner and Microsoft Office Specialist.

Protecting the integrity of a certification exam is critical in order to level the playing field and ensure no test taker has an unfair advantage. Several schools have already come under fire for high-profile cheating scandals and research has shown that students may be more likely to cheat on unproctored exams. Last month, police in Delhi uncovered a plot involving software that conspirators to remotely take over more than 200 test takers’ computers and take certification exams on their behalf.  One way to reduce cheating on such exams is through remote proctoring with measures like asking for ID or showing an exam work environment. 

These measures are necessary because offering certification exams remotely helps reach as many professionals as possible. However, with a higher volume of test takers, security may become an issue. When looking for a remote proctoring service, make sure you find one who can ensure the tests administered are thoroughly monitored and secure, as if they were taken in person. If you cannot guarantee this, your certification may lose credibility and value in the industry it serves. For example, it was reported earlier this month that several South Carolina law enforcement officers cheated on unproctored state-mandated training by skipping through training videos to reduce the time spent on them while still obtaining their certifications.

Events like that show us that accountability both for test takers and remote proctors are critical. When looking for a remote proctoring service, make a point to examine other factors as well, including data security, ease of use, and accessibility. Do your research and ensure that the remote proctoring service you use is a credible and transparent company that respects your privacy as well as your test takers. Consider choosing a remote proctoring provider that has separate accounts for individual organizations and takes steps to ensure only institution administrators and highly trained company proctoring staff have access to test taker data, if necessary.

To reduce interaction with third party contractors and effectively utilize proctoring staff already trained, some remote proctoring platforms even offer an institutional Software as a service (SaaS) solution so institutions can use their own staff for proctoring their exams. By using your staff, you can centralize test taker data and analyze cases of academic dishonesty by reviewing exam sessions within your organization.

Even if you are working with a seemingly credible remote proctoring vendor, it is important to have the ability to audit the service. Working with a sincere organization that is willing to provide internal data for audits or access to any recorded sessions of your exam when necessary allows you the opportunity to do a random review to check if the service is adequately performing its proctoring process. By providing this transparency, you can ensure that their services are up to your standards and catch all potential cases of cheating.

Accessibility compliance is another important factor for protecting the integrity of a certification because inequity harms test takers and reduces the quality of your certification. Not all remote proctoring services adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0 AA so you want to ensure that the service you use does. WCAG 2.0 Level AA compliance requires content to be readable and webpages to be easily navigable and compatible with different browsers. Furthermore, alternatives to the main presentation must be provided like descriptive text to describe images and other media.

Cost is also essential in protecting the integrity of your certification exams. Many remote proctoring companies offer the option of having students pay individually for the proctoring service or a sum total from your certification program. Ensure that either cost is affordable for students and should not differ significantly from having their exam proctored in-person. 

As shown, moving certification exams online is essential in order to provide access for all professionals and test takers. However, several high-profile cases have demonstrated that this transition cannot be made until after ensuring that the services you use can protect the integrity of your certification and maintain the quality of exam sessions for test takers.

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