E-invigilation: Make It Legit, And Be Clear About It

E-invigilation: Make It Legit, And Be Clear About It
Wit Olszewski/Shutterstock.com
Summary: Quality Assurance Agencies in higher education in the EU really need to start stating clearly in their documentation that the use of e-invigilation technologies is permissible.

It's High Time E-Invigilation Be EU Permissible

For two examples of such "no clear documentation," firstly, refer to indicator 11 of the UK QAA Code B6 (Assessment of Students and the Recognition of Prior Learning), and secondly, refer to the European Standards and Guidelines (see reference 4).

Not having clear QAA documentation about permitted e-invigilation technologies:

  • Creates confusion about the technology itself, which is an established, advanced and reliable exam solution
  • May force institutions, especially those offering fully online Distance Learning (DL) degrees, to use a costly network of authorized exam centers, implying, therefore, that they would likely, in the case of hand-written exams, have to post-exam papers to and from such international exam centers
  • Means the DL program is less student-centered, (i.e., in the sense that it makes DL education less open, less accessible, and less flexible for the often diverse DL student study community)

Introductory Comments

Two discussion points in a recent article of mine on e-invigilation in higher education (HE), published on eLearning Industry [1], were that, firstly, a growing number of universities use a variety of student-centered assessment methods in DL programs without any examinations at all, and secondly, Quality Assurance Agencies for Higher Education in the UK and the EU (i.e., the EU not including the UK) do not appear to have taken an official clear-cut position in their documentation regarding the legitimate and unrestricted use of e-invigilation services.

For instance, by approaching the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education directly for an email clarification of its position regarding the use of e-invigilation technologies in Distance Learning (that is, as a result of no clear e-invigilation-related documentation being made available), it was stated by the UK QAA that "ultimately it is up to the provider to decide on the most appropriate and secure examination procedures, and the extent to which those procedures are operated by third parties" (nota bene, therefore, in the UK, e-invigilation in higher education is apparently permissible).

With regard to the email responses from the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR)[2] and the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) [3] (again, that is, as a result of no precise e-invigilation-related documentation being made available), it was understood that the use of third-party e-invigilation companies is allowable provided that their use is compatible with the requirements of the European Standards and Guidelines [4] for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area. (Nota bene, I hold however, this ENQA and EQAR position could be made more explicit—why should compliance with ESG even need to be shown if thousands [7] of possibly competing HE institutions are already using such technologies?)

In this article, therefore, I present a possible approach for a higher education institution, or consortium of like-minded higher education institutions, to address any cursory EQAR-registered[6] QAA concerns regarding the effectiveness and resilience of e-invigilation technologies by approaching the key issues logically and hopefully unequivocally.

1. State The Need To Broaden Study Options

It is essential to express a staunch belief that the use of robust, scalable and credible e-invigilation technologies will significantly broaden study options and make education more open, more accessible, and more flexible for students studying in higher education institutions in your particular country.

2. State The Need To Maintain Student-Centered Competitive Advantage

It is important to assert that in the increasingly internationalized and rapidly-changing, technology-dependent world of higher education, institutions that use more quality, student-centered e-invigilation services have a significant competitive advantage over those that do not.

Moreover, it might also be acknowledged that:

  • Trends now even indicate that a variety of other assessment methods in DL programs can be used without any summative examinations at all (e.g., written essays, reports, career development portfolios, critical writing assignments, or a dissertation research project). Additionally, perhaps highlight that possible lower student intakes might be brought about by students preferring to study elsewhere in programs that implement an exam-less, student-centered approach to assessment.
  • Assessment approaches to learning and assessment (including e-invigilation assessment) in general may need to be rethought to incorporate more student-centeredness, thereby also being in line with section 1.3 of the ESG [5] which states, "Institutions should ensure that the programs are delivered in a way that encourages students to take an active role in creating the learning process, and that the assessment of students reflects this approach."

3. State That Use Of E-invigilation Technologies In Higher Education Is Now Ubiquitous

Draw attention to the fact that e-invigilation technologies, which are also known as remote surveillance or online proctoring, have been around for approximately eleven years now. Emphasize that literally millions of e-invigilated exams and professional tests have been undertaken by thousands of higher education institutions worldwide, and the e-invigilation market is even predicted to reach $10 billion by 2026 [8].

Mention some particular examples of well-known universities that have used e-invigilation; these might include Yale University, Columbia University, University of Washington, Cornell University, New York University, University of Toronto, Indiana University, University of Edinburgh, Dublin School of Veterinary Medicine, Sydney University, and the University of Hertfordshire.

4. Give Examples Of Well-Established, Market-Leader E-Invigilation Providers

Firstly, explain that such companies are only being highlighted because they are relatively large and established companies, maybe citing, for example, Crunchbase’s company analysis.

However, also indicate that the e-invigilation tech market changes very rapidly, so other smaller and/or possibly less well-known e-invigilation companies (which would be named) may come up with innovative and unique e-invigilation solutions. In addition, possibly mention relevant EU research projects (e.g., OP4RE Online Proctoring for Remote Examination, which was an Erasmus+ Program run by 9 academic institutions); in particular, possibly mention TESLA.

5. State Some Suggested Criteria For Selecting An E-Invigilation Company (See Possible Examples Below)

  • E-invigilation providers could be either well-established companies with an impressive range of higher-education institutional clients or smaller, less well-known companies with cutting-edge point-of-differentiation services; they ought to be undertaking preferably large numbers of proctored exams per year (please note, over a million or more exams per year is not unusual for an established company).
  • There should be a strict but not overly lengthy live authentication process; there should be a stringent process of ID verification usually including photo comparison, challenge questions and even a digital signature (measuring keystroke cadence) to verify identity.
  • A “clean” test environment should be ensured by facilitating a 360° room pan and desk sweep. This is to verify no unauthorized materials are present. Moreover, there should be the capability to undertake optional additional impromptu 360° views to monitor any suspicious incidents during the exam.
  • There should be an intuitive and advanced LTI Integration for major LMSs (e.g., Canvas, Blackboard, or Moodle thus allowing (1) teachers or administrators to set up exams trouble-free; (2) students to single-sign-on to a secure authentication process which would be followed by the proctored exam).
  • Examinee behavior should be monitored in real-time. Moreover, trackable real-time incident stamping and end-to-end recording should be undertaken. Technological capabilities such as the monitoring of head movement, the flagging of multiple face recognition, eye movement tracking, auditory analysis or testee IP tracking are expected, and will therefore add credence to the trustworthiness of such e-invigilation platforms.
  • Live proctors and scalable, powerful, equivalent-level, lock-down-browser-capable Artificial Intelligence technologies should be exam utilized.
  • Proctors should be trained and certified.
  • The use of supervised Machine Learning would mean the proctoring platforms themselves would also get "smarter" with each exam proctored.
  • E-invigilation platforms should generate full post-exam reports promptly for teachers and administrators to review.
  • There should be live 24/7 technical support available via live chat, email or phone before and during an exam.
  • Exam data should be secure and companies should be EU-based and GDPR compliant. Preferably, however, no personal data should be collected or stored at all.
  • There should be end-to-end encryption to ensure exam access is restricted to institutions and all exam recordings should be secure in both transfer and at rest.
  • Pricing should be competitive and there should be leeway to negotiate lower prices at scale.

6. Request That The Use of E-Invigilation Be Formally Permitted

State (again) that as e-invigilation technologies are currently being used by thousands of higher education institutions worldwide, a kind request is therefore made to the QA agency in question that formally permits the use of such technologies, and in particular, permits their use where the traditional paper-based examination-center approach cannot be implemented practicably for students resident in diverse global locations.

7. Final Thoughts

  • I believe it’s high time for EQAR-registered QA agencies in the EU and in the UK to be clearer in any QAA documentation regarding e-invigilation and its affordances in eLearning.
  • Moreover, in a carbon-footprint world, isn’t the obligatory physical presence of the student in a possibly distant examination center "technologically" backward-thinking and even environmentally irresponsible?


[1] Remote Online Proctoring: Will Exams Go The Way Of The Dodo In DL?

[2] Database of External Quality Assurance Results



[5] ESG 2015

[6] Online Proctoring / Remote Invigilation – Soon a Multibillion Dollar Market within eLearning & Assessment


[7] The estimation is based on a detailed analysis of top e-invigilation companies i.e. I contacted them and asked them for the number of HE clients they had.

[8] Quality Assurance Agencies registered in the European Higher Education Area [EHEA] at EQAR