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Nursing project named finalist for national Innovation Award

8 June 2015

by Dave Ross

Finalists have been announced for the inaugural Canadian University Council of Chief Information Officers (CUCCIO) Innovation Awards, which celebrate collaboration, innovation and community building in Canadian higher-education IT. Bloomberg Nursing, a leader in online education at the University of Toronto, had its “Online Proctoring Pilot Project” nominated as one of three finalists in the Innovation category. Fareed Teja, the Academic Information and Communication Technology Supervisor and lead on the project at Bloomberg Nursing, will be travelling to the annual Canadian Higher Education Information Technology (CANHEIT) Conference in New Brunswick in June to present on this innovative pilot project, along with the other two finalists. The winner will be announced at CANHEIT.

As online learning has developed and grown in education settings, the question of how to deliver tests and exams to these students has become an increasingly pressing one. Students may be distributed across vast distances, making traditional face-to-face exam delivery impossible. One option is to employ exam centres, where students travel locally to write their exams, but these have high overhead and administrative costs, and may be inconvenient to students. Recently, third-party service providers have begun offering a third option – online proctoring.

Live online proctoring services provide students the ability to take online exams from their own locations by connecting them with real people via web cam and screen sharing technologies. Proctors work with students to verify their identity, ensure exam rules are followed, and protect exam questions. Exam rules remain flexible based on course needs, but generally involve making sure that students are taking exams individually and not accessing unauthorized resources (online or paper-based). Proctors can react in real-time to any issues that may occur, and work with instructors to maintain academic integrity.

Bloomberg Nursing’s Online Proctoring Pilot Project began in September 2013, and is the first project exploring online proctoring at U of T.  The first step in the process was a rigourous investigation of online proctoring service providers, resulting in the selection of ProctorU. Working with U of T’s Information Technology Services Security Office, Privacy Impact and Threat/Risk Assessments were conducted, and project testing began. Students and instructors from the online Master of Nursing – Nurse Practitioner program were oriented to the concept, and instructions, videos, and practice tests were developed. During the project, statistics and metrics were gathered by ProctorU, and both ProctorU and Bloomberg Nursing conducted student feedback through surveys. Through the project, issues were identified, and improvements made to successive testing experiences.

Online proctoring is still a novel concept at many Canadian institutions, and while there is still some investigation to be done, it appears to answer the question of how to ensure academic integrity when students take online exams in remote locations that cannot be controlled. Furthermore, increasing academic integrity during exams assists with accreditation of programs, providing assurances to accrediting bodies that student outcomes are authentic.

The results of the Online Proctoring Pilot Project, which concluded in April 2014, are already being felt. Bloomberg Nursing has expanded online proctoring to the new Master of Nursing – Health Systems Leadership and Administration program, and shared the findings of the project both internally at U of T, and with our higher education colleagues at other institutions in Canada. Moving forward, Bloomberg Nursing plans to continue developing the use of online proctoring to further improve student experiences. Bloomberg Nursing sends its best wish with Teja as he presents at CANHEIT!