Information Communication Technologies & Digital Media Sector Team

By Rachel R. Watkins Schoenig, Cornerstone Strategies, LLC


Five weeks ago, we would have had a hard time imagining universities and testing centers across California all shutting down at the same time.  Today, it’s our reality.  With orders to close all but essential businesses, educational courses and testing are moving online in an effort to continue to serve students and adult workers.  We’ve been asked to share what faculty and students need to know about online testing, and to address whether this is ushering in a “new normal” in certification testing.

What you need to know as an educator going online

Online testing and remote proctoring are not new.  These capabilities have been used for years by online institutions as well as some low-to-medium stakes testing programs for certification exams. Usually, however, transitioning to online testing is a methodical, gradual process that allows educator, program directors, and students an opportunity to plan for and transition to the new requirements associated with online testing.  During COVID-19, the transition is being made rapidly while individuals are self-isolating and may be responsible for caring for school age children or elderly parents.

Shifting to online testing creates different opportunities for learners to engage in unauthorized behavior, such as accessing notes or using a cell phone to request and share answers.  Such behavior undermines the purpose of the test and likely runs afoul of the academic institution’s academic integrity code. In addition, attempts to remotely monitor the test taker using their webcam raises privacy concerns.

If you are setting up your own exam, you will need to address exam security, academic integrity, and privacy considerations.  We’ve created a worksheet to help you think through the technology issues, as well as a short checklist to guide you through the security and privacy considerations.  These are offered free on our website at and can be accessed at the National College Testing Association (NCTA) website as well.  NCTA is also hosting free webinars on Wednesday, April 1 and Friday, April 3 to provide more detail and answer questions.  You can register at

If your students will be taking a certification or licensure exam, the testing program will dictate the online testing and proctoring requirements for the exam.  Many IT certifications are already available online and can be taken via remote proctoring.  Others are ramping up to go online as quickly as possible. Higher stakes exams, however, may take longer to transition to online and some may decide not to do so at all.

As an educator, regardless of whether you are scheduling your own exam or students are taking a licensure test, it is important that you set the tone and expectations for your students.  Being clear about your expectations for their behavior and the potential consequences is one important step.  Frequently reminding them of your expectations and their promises to test with integrity is also effective. For example, reminding them that their classmates are also taking these under the same circumstances and you’re relying on them – and they should rely on each other – to test honestly can be effective. Nudges have been shown to work and they are easy to incorporate into your emails, messages, and test instructions, so use them.

What you need to know as a test taker

Your teacher, professor or credentialing program should provide you with a list of the specific technology you will need and the rules of your exam.

Generally speaking, testing online will require you to have access to a digital device with a webcam, speakers, microphone and internet access.  Ideally your digital device will be a laptop or desktop device, as it is easier to read questions and provide responses on one large screen rather than scroll through a cell phone screen.  You may also be asked to disable your antivirus software (which can create performance issues) and to download other applications necessary to securely test.

It is common for testing programs to require you to be alone in a walled room with closed doors for the test.  You may also be asked to minimize disruptions and to have a clean desk free of notes or other personal items.  If your test is being live proctored, you will likely be asked to present some form of photo identification and a webcam photo may be taken of you and potentially your ID.  You may also be asked to roll up your sleeves or to turn out your pockets so that the proctor can determine you are not secreting any notes or other unauthorized devices in your clothes.  Some tests may prohibit you from taking a break and will void your exam if you leave the room for any reason, so be sure you check the rules of the exam and plan accordingly (a caffeinated drink right before the test may not be a wise choice).  You will likely be provided an examinee agreement prior to the launch of the test.  Often, these will provide the testing rules, processes to be followed in the event of a suspected violation, potential consequences, and privacy notices.  You should read and be aware of these prior to testing.

Depending on the test requirements, both audio and video recording may occur.  You should be sure you are appropriately clothed and it’s helpful if you notify others in your home that both the web camera and microphone will be used during your test.

As always, it is important to test honestly.  Consequences for cheating can range from a lowered grade to a permanent ban for taking future licensure exams.  Be aware that many online proctoring vendors and certification programs employ tools to help detect exam misconduct.  If you have concerns that others are engaging in testing misconduct, you should share that concern with the certification program or your professor.

The new normal in testing?

Online testing and online proctoring will continue to become more sophisticated and used by a growing number of educational institutions and workforce credentialing programs.  While the pandemic response may push more tests online over the next several weeks, it is likely that some credentialing programs will return to the use of physical testing sites when the health crisis has subsided.

During this rapid ramp-up, educators and students alike may be experiencing online testing for the first time.  Remember to be patient with one another and with the technology.  Bandwidth issues and system configurations can be tricky to navigate, but you will get through.  And if you need help or even just encouragement, there are resources available to assist you.

Rachel R. Watkins Schoenig, Cornerstone Strategies, LLC

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