AWS Public Sector Blog

Using the cloud to support remote proctoring and assessment

woman taking test on computer

Around the world, exams are administered to help students and adults further their education and advance their careers. In the US, approximately eight million high school students took a single standardized college entrance exam in 2019. As the pandemic shifted life to virtual work and learning, it also interrupted high stakes exams typically administered in person. For years, education technology (EdTech) companies like ExamSoft, Sumadi (part of Laureate Education), and ProctorFree have been developing remote proctoring and digital assessment solutions using the cloud. Although human proctors still safeguard the integrity and security of the exams, the cloud enabled these companies to build solutions that allow proctors to monitor assessments live from a remote location or after students finish the exam via a recording.

Throughout 2020, these applications played a pivotal role so testing and licensing could continue while universities went fully online and travel became restricted for the good of public health.

Delivering scale and flexibility

Prior to the pandemic, ExamSoft, a provider of secure, data-rich, educational assessment technology saw challenges customers had with finding enough proctors to facilitate in-person exams and how internet speed in some remote locations impacted testing success. They began working on remote proctoring solutions that would work for both online learning as well as the large in-person, computerized high-stakes exams.

With the help of Amazon Web Services (AWS), ExamSoft, is able to take snapshots of user keyboard and desktop activity. They also record test-taker audio and video using ExamMonitor, a virtual proctoring solution. Then they share that information with the institution for review, to help human proctors scale; the actual decisions on whether activity was improper requires human review and judgement. ExamSoft also created offline applications that aid in the delivery of exams when bandwidth is limited. To do this, ExamSoft relies on AWS services like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), containers, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), serverless solutions to support their microservices architecture, and data analysis tools of the monitoring.

“The decision to work with AWS was critical to our success, scalability, and hands-off approach,” said Mike Mitrione, chief technology officer at ExamSoft. “Our team is confident in our infrastructure. We experience peak times, and each year they get bigger. We don’t have to worry about whether our architecture can scale. We can focus on our business and our customers.”

Detecting foreign objects to flag inconsistencies

As part of their effort to improve the remote learning experience, Laureate created a remote proctoring tool, Sumadi. Their solution lays on top of a learning management system (LMS) instead of plugging into it—a standalone solution born in the cloud. Sumadi uses the artificial intelligence (AI) tool Amazon Rekognition to provide decision support to human proctors. The technology identifies unusual activity or objects, then flags them for a human proctor so they can review webcam captures and determine if the student cheated. The Sumadi application uses prompts and controls to help students succeed, relying on human review for all determinations of improper activity. The solution allows the proctor and student to be in different locations, with the AI tool assisting the human proctor in monitoring concurrent users.

“With AWS, we were able to develop a new proctoring solution with a modern look and feel and an attractive pricing model, which was part of our success. The support of AWS allowed us to scale and share progress reports on testing in almost real time so the test evaluators don’t have to wait to see results.”

Sumadi migrated their database to AWS in record time. After, they were able to administer 70,000 tests concurrently for the government of Colombia. “It performed superbly,” said Raul Rivera, executive director, LMS & SUMADI Laureate Global IT. During this test, the Laureate solution took 34 million images. Next, Laureate is working with the government of Peru to administer an annual exam to more than 200,000 high school students.

Rethinking delivery for now and the future

ProctorFree, an EdTech focused on providing identity management and automated proctoring for online assessments, saw the need for remote proctoring more than a decade ago after engaging with a customer based in a rural area, where distance created a deterrent for in-person exams and consistent connectivity was an issue. Their solution runs on a machine similar to many well-known meeting and collaboration tools. It affords students the ability to log on and take a test at any time, sending data to the AWS Cloud in real time. Customers can view data almost instantaneously or record and review testing data later. To get on-demand resources spun up quickly, the tool uses AWS Lambda for serverless compute, Amazon Rekognition for analytics and facial detection to determine whether or not there is a face in the image, Amazon EC2 for the proctoring itself, and Amazon S3 for storage.

ProctorFree technology helps customers rethink how they assess and provide credentialing globally. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is a certification and standard-setting nonprofit organization for the inspection, cleaning, and restoration industries. Before 2017, IICRC delivered paper assessments worldwide. ProctorFree helped digitize their course and test content so they can deliver it in multiple languages online. The responsiveness and affordable storage capabilities of Lambda and Amazon S3 help make this happen while maintaining privacy and security of data.

“AWS allows for best-in-class speed, stability, and feedback for our customers and end users who are seeking identity management and virtual proctoring solutions,” shared Mike Murphy, chief executive officer of ProctorFree. “Whether it’s an individual student that needs a fast, easy-to-use, and affordable proctoring option or a commercial organization looking to add a layer of security to a global certification program, we are focused on solving problems and providing great service. Our collaboration with AWS gives us the tailwind to do that.” Mike also shared that to date, the ProctorFree tool has not experienced downtime or other issues.

With the power of the cloud and the creativity of companies like ExamSoft, ProctorFree and Sumadi, how exams are administered and proctored will continue to evolve to safely and securely meet the needs of students, education institutions, and organizations globally.

Read more about the cloud for education.