The COVID-19 pandemic forced many education institutions to take entire campuses online almost overnight. Despite a massive growth and adoption in online education technology in recent years, many institutions struggled to translate their on-campus delivery methodology to an online environment and, in particular, were unprepared in how to ensure academic integrity online. This has resulted in a scramble to adopt exam proctoring and remote invigilation software, providing the Engineering Institute of Technology a competitive advantage and new business stream.

Over the last three years, the Engineering Institute of Technology has perfected an online exam proctoring, and remote invigilation software to autonomously monitor students while they undertake an exam. This system is named IRIS Invigilation.

IRIS was developed by the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) in conjunction with Curtin University in Western Australia. EIT is now the sole education partner of IRIS internationally and utilizes the software to invigilate online assessments and exams of 1600 students from over 140 countries. IRIS' usefulness has further been realized as the pandemic has produced new challenges for institutions that need to ensure the reliability and validity of student assessments.

"My vision for IRIS was to have an easy-to-run, very affordable invigilation package for our (and other colleges') students, and indeed, staff, to easily use at far-flung locations to demonstrate their commitment to a high level of integrity in their work," said Dean of Engineering at the Engineering Institute of Technology, Dr. Steve Mackay. The fully developed software seemingly made it to market just in time for the unexpected circumstance that cropped up this year.

"When coronavirus hit in early 2020, educational institutes who had been avoiding online education were forced into action. If this transition wasn't stressful enough, with all the technical challenges of schools, colleges, and universities going online, then they had to find a solution for online assessments and potential cheating," says Sarah Montgomery, Project Manager at EIT who is overseeing IRIS.

"As more institutes go online, we saw an opportunity to expand IRIS to other institutions who would benefit from remote proctoring," she continued. "IRIS has been warmly received with many potential customers valuing the dedicated IRIS technical team and evidence of EIT's own success in using the platform."

Deputy Dean at the Engineering Institute of Technology, Indumathi V, says she has seen the software in action and finds it incredibly helpful as an academic monitoring exams.

"I have seen IRIS in action, and it's fantastic! It empowers me as an academic to trust on the reliability, authenticity, and integrity of the assessments completed by my students.  It works by recording audio, video, and computer screen activity for the duration of an exam/assessment. Staff don't have to go through every recording to verify assessment integrity or authenticity. Machine learning algorithms in the background do the work and flag potential academic dishonesty, which is neatly displayed on a dashboard. It's a well-designed, user-friendly system that integrates effortlessly into most computer systems."

The software had already racked up some accolades before the COVID-19 pandemic began threatening education institutions around the world. In 2019, the IRIS team secured the position of ON Accelerate Finalist, which is Australia's national innovation accelerator program, powered by CSIRO. In the same year, IRIS was a Highly Commended Education Finalist (Best Project in the Education category) at the prestigious ITnews Benchmark Awards.

 

How it works

IRIS records video of a student's face throughout their online exam. The program tracks head and eye movement, records the audio signal from a student's computer, and captures webcam audio too. The program takes successive screenshots of what the student sees during the exam, and what is displayed on their computer screen.

An extra security measure IRIS incorporates is facial markers. The markers are identified and tracked, categorizing and distinguishing innocent behaviors and cross-referencing them with dishonest behaviors.

IRIS departs from traditional methods of real-time online invigilation, which is expensive and time-consuming for educators and assessors. Upon the completion of an assessment, IRIS autonomously targets or 'flags' videos that need evaluation to prioritize students who require further investigation and keep staff workloads manageable. Educators can then review this data at a time that is convenient to help ensure student identity verification and assessment integrity.

Educators set the system on their online assessments through their own defined Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle. When a student clicks on the assessment, IRIS automatically pops up and asks the student to agree to being invigilated. Once they complete and submit their assessment, IRIS shuts down and provides the educators with all of the data gathered during the assessment.

"With the increase in the uptake of online learning and assessment due to COVID19, more and more educational institutions are grappling with assessment authenticity and integrity," says Indumathi.

"Autonomous proctoring provides an excellent solution to these problems, improving the quality assurance and reliability of online education.

"The future of proctoring is very bright with artificial intelligence (AI), big data (data forensics), data security, and user-centric developments taking center stage. These enhanced capabilities provide many opportunities for improvements to existing technology."

 

Lightweight, easily deployable, global

Students from all over the world are using IRIS. At the Engineering Institute of Technology, we have three years' experience in invigilating all online exams. Online exam proctoring cements the legitimacy of online education, which institutions have had to implement during the global pandemic. IRIS Invigilation provides a lightweight, easily deployable, and instantly accessible system for monitoring students while they complete online assessments.

The IRIS technology is secure, easy to use, and requires very little in the way of software infrastructure due to its efficient browser-based design. All the student needs is a Microsoft-compatible or Mac computer with webcam, microphone, and speakers connected. Most impressively, IRIS has a Google Chrome extension and Microsoft Edge plugin that can be added straight to the browser.

Sarah explains, "Students need to use the Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge browser because IRIS uses these browser plugins (extensions) to access your webcam, microphone, and screen. IRIS has been developed in this way so that you do not have to download bulky or costly software packages onto your computer.

Recently, IRIS was added to the Microsoft Edge store, so now Chinese students can utilize the software. This opens up a huge market for international students as previously IRIS did not work in China."

The IRIS team has successfully signed up several large institutes that deal with thousands of international and local university and college students.

"We have a client who specializes in English testing and another in the trade skills industry. One of our larger clients completed their university exams this week and clocked up over 15,000 assessment hours. IRIS is capable of handling huge amounts of data, and IRIS successfully invigilated and uploaded the recordings of over 3,000 students in the exam period," said Sarah.  

"After significant financial investment in research over the past five years and tens of thousands of hours of testing, I have been gratified to see IRIS develop into an ultra-useful invigilation (proctoring) package," Steve remarked.

"IRIS has been adopted by many of the largest colleges in the world, and we are pouring more resources into developing additional AI capabilities as well as analytical support to provide feedback to the instructors on improving their courses with real evidence-based intelligence."

With the potentially chaotic reclosure of educational facilities due to a second wave of the coronavirus, investing in an online remote examination proctoring software solution is a good step in ensuring academic integrity online.

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The Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) is dedicated to ensuring our students receive a world-class education and gain skills they can immediately implement in the workplace upon graduation. Our staff members uphold our ethos of honesty and integrity, and we stand by our word because it is our bond. Our students are also expected to carry this attitude throughout their time at our institute, and into their careers.