Instructor guidance for online exams and proctoring options

Protecting the integrity of online exams can pose challenges for both instructors and students.  Instructors need to verify the identity of students and ensure that only authorized resources are being used. Students must ensure their computer system meets the technical requirements of the online exam and any proctoring tools that may be required.  Remote proctoring technologies can also add additional stress to students that can impact exam performance.  Consider the following best practices when planning your online assessments.

Best practices for online exams

Help students prepare

  • Explain to students how the online exam process will work and establish clear expectations. Students may not be familiar with the technology required for an online exam and may need time to prepare and test their computer hardware to ensure they are ready. Maintain the consistency of exam requirements throughout the semester.
  • Offer a practice exam well in advance of the first scheduled exam.  This will provide students an anxiety-free attempt to test their technology.  Feedback from students can help instructors identify needed adjustments.  The format of the practice exam should be similar to the actual exam if possible.
  • Be mindful of the extra time required for students to upload exam materials for submission and include this requirement when determining the time window for the exam. 
  • Provide clear and concise information on how your students can ask questions or get help during your online exam.  An instructor or GTA should be available for the entire exam time, including any extra time that may be required for students with accommodations.

Protecting exam integrity

  • Remind students to act with integrity when completing coursework, including online exams, and reference Michigan Tech’s Academic Integrity Policy in your course syllabus. Consider adding an honor code statement at the beginning of an online exam that outlines your expectations.  This could include verbiage like:
    • I am taking this exam alone.
    • I will not receive assistance from anyone while taking the exam.
    • Other than the instructor or GTA, I will not communicate with anyone else while taking the exam.
    • I understand that violation of the honor code will result in a grade of “F” for the exam.
    • I understand that violation of the honor code will result in referral to the Office of Academic and Community Conduct.
  • Determine if lockdown browser or online proctoring tools will be required.  Michigan Tech instructors may require students to use Respondus LockDown Browser when taking computer-based exams.  LockDown Browser is a custom browser that locks the testing environment within Canvas and is suitable for securing online exams in classrooms or other proctored environments.  Respondus Monitor provides automated proctoring for remote students (via their computer webcam) to record student activity during the exam.  Instructors should plan ahead to determine which tools will be required for their online exams and give careful consideration to how these tools will be used by students. Make sure to allow time for students to test their computer hardware and identify a suitable location for taking online exams.
  • Students who are not comfortable taking online exams in their remote location should be allowed to arrange for a proctored exam in a testing center or other approved location.
  • Design exams to reduce the incentive for academic misconduct with features such as:
    • Questions that require more than memorization of basic facts.
    • Making exams “open-book” to avoid giving students who consult resources an unfair advantage over students who follow the rules of a “closed-book” exam.
    • Specify clear time limits for exams to encourage students to prepare in advance instead of consulting resources during the exam and using valuable time. Canvas allows for specific time requirements and also supports adding extra time for accommodated students.
    • Randomize exams by shuffling answers and using question groups to randomly pull questions from a question bank.
    • Require all work completed during the problem solution process to be submitted for review.
  • Consider alternative assessment methods (e.g., essays, recorded presentations, group projects, etc.) that can allow students to demonstrate mastery of course learning objectives and avoid the complications inherent in online exams. 

Contact the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (, 487-3000) for further assistance in planning for and deploying online exams in your classes.