Bulletin of Dental Education

Academic Integrity: How a Dental Hygiene Program Tackled Virtual Proctors

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As educators, I am sure many of you are familiar with at least one version of the various cloud-based exam platforms that conveniently bank assessment questions, administer exams, generate real-time data and provide detailed information on the exam taker’s responses. The ability to access these resources is an invaluable innovation that is not only timesaving, but is a proven tool that improves student learning outcomes.

Sharon McLaughlin, M.M., B.S.D.H., RDH
NYU College of Dentistry

Although most assessment tools offer a version that includes a virtual test proctor, the cost is appreciably higher, and some colleges have opted to contract for a version without this tool as a cost-saving measure. In a normal classroom environment, this decision has proven to be a wise one, but in 2020 we were challenged with reassessing and reimagining normal.

The necessity to move to remote learning stretched our capacity to think on our feet in an effort to provide the best and safest learning experience possible for our students. We literally “zoomed” into the unknown. Step by step, day by day, we mastered remembering to turn on our microphones, the chat, the feared breakout room and we reformatted all our course assessments to an online format.

We went remote in March 2020 and students’ grades soared in April and May. Though we would all like to attribute this phenomenon to learner dedication and skilled instructional efforts, we soon realistically conceded that we were in need of an effective mode of virtual proctoring. I came up with an idea that I timidly shared with a colleague, and she encouraged me to give it a try.

Feeling emboldened, here’s what we tried. While administering an assessment on a cloud platform lacking virtual proctoring, I instructed the students to log onto a separate Zoom meeting from their phones and place their phones so observers could easily see the student and their desktop while the exam was in progress. As the host, I was able to mute all participants so there was no discussion between students, although communication was available through the chat feature, which was monitored by an instructor. Additional observing instructors could then scan the photo gallery of the exam takers in real time to minimize the chance of academic dishonesty.

For my class of 54, this was accomplished with the assistance of additional remote faculty proctors. The exercise turned out to be an effective and cost-efficient method to ensure academic integrity. I continued to use it throughout the fall semester.

If you have questions about how to implement this in your program, please contact me.
Sharon McLaughlin, M.M., B.S.D.H., RDH
NYU College of Dentistry 
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting
Email: sam2193@nyu.edu

Published on January 13, 2021

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