Exam Integrity: The Webcam Effect

Monday, 9 November 2015

Irene Salinas, MSN, RN
School of Nursing, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing, Lubbock, TX, USA
Laura L. Opton, DHSc, RN, CNE
School of Nursing, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX, USA

Cheating is a concern in any academic discipline, and especially so in one leading to licensure and impacting patient safety.  As recent studies show an escalation in students declaring they have cheated, faculty have been increasingly focused on ways to deter this behavior.  The upsurge in availability of online education has only increased concerns about cheating.  

Due to issues surrounding academic integrity in online programs, a descriptive correlational design study was implemented in an online pharmacology course required for accelerated second degree BSN students.  The purpose of the study was to determine if the utilization of a webcam during on demand proctoring for online quizzes would impact student scores and time to test.  The objectives of the study were to 1) compare student scores on proctored versus non-proctored quizzes and 2) compare time to test on proctored versus non-proctored quizzes.

To implement the study, the researchers selected Software Secure’s remote proctoring system, which is used by over 300 institutions of higher education across the nation.  The service selected included on-demand web proctoring, in which students were recorded using a webcam during the online quizzes.  The recording was reviewed by Software Secure, and reports of any violations of academic integrity or suspicious behavior were provided to the course facilitator.  Faculty were also able to personally view each student’s recording.

One hundred forty-six students participated in the study over two semesters at six different sites.  The results revealed a significant difference in the scores and time to test in proctored versus non-proctored quizzes when using a webcam.  A serendipitous revelation during the study included identification of advantages and disadvantages of using a webcam to proctor online quizzes.  The primary disadvantage to faculty was the time required to set up the proctoring service and align it with the school’s online learning platform; whereas, the primary disadvantage to students was related to technology and computer requirements.  The major advantage to faculty was exam security; while, the key advantage to students was an even playing field.