I.C.E. Virtual Exchange Preview: Security Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-COVID-19 Era
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges that have forced credentialing and testing organizations to adapt. Many organizations made changes to their policies and procedures to accommodate safety concerns for both candidates and their own staff. Candidates also adjusted to new ways to schedule and take exams, as well as new opportunities to cheat or harvest items. When the dust settles after COVID-19, what will be the long-term impact of these changes? And, what will the permanent operating environment look like for test security and validity?
The I.C.E. Virtual Exchange (Nov. 9-11) session, “Security Challenges and Opportunities in Post-COVID 19 Era,” will explore these questions. Security experts Sara Levinson, vice president, business development, Prometric; Ray Nicosia, executive director, office of testing integrity, ETS; Bryan Friess, director, global investigation and threat analysis, Pearson VUE; Roddy Meade, senior manager, security operations, Prometric; and Aaron Wiseman, senior certification security specialist, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), will offer their insights. I.C.E. Publications and Editorial Committee member Colin Biddle recently spoke with Meade and Wiseman about what attendees will gain from this session.
Why is this topic important to the profession?
Roddy Meade (RM): Maintaining the highest level of test security is always an important topic to credentialing organizations. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new test security challenges and threats, and many organizations have addressed them in different ways. This session aims to pull together those different approaches and collective experiences to share learnings with other credentialing organizations.
Aaron Wiseman (AW): There will never truly be a “post-COVID-19 era.” COVID-19 has had a universal impact on how we all do business. Every business, from Fortune 500 companies to local corner stores, have had to change some aspect of their business model. In some instances, these changes will be permanent. Test admonition is no different.
What do you hope attendees will take away from your session?
RM: A deeper understanding of the new challenges and trends in test security brought on by COVID-19, in both physical test center and remote proctoring environments, and successful strategies that other testing organizations are using to overcome them.
AW: Many of the changes testing agencies implemented because of COVID-19 are here to stay. Remote proctoring is now a fixture of credentialing. I would like to provide attendees with examples of things they can do to help prepare examinees. For example, increasing outbound communications via multiple delivery methods to ensure examinees understand the requirements for a remote exam.
How have security trends changed and/or stayed the same during COVID-19?
RM: The largest single change is most likely the increase in credentialing organizations moving to remote proctoring. Especially those who thought they would never use it prior to COVID-19. The learning curve for them has been steep and fast. They have had to quickly learn about cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, facial recognition and other biometrics, video retention polices and new privacy challenges, just to name a few.
Other things that have changed in physical test centers include social distancing changes to security inspections and proctoring methods, new test anxiety and disruptions over mandatory face mask policies, identity verification policies with face masks and more.
Two things that have remained the same are that 1) the highest possible levels of test integrity and security need to be maintained in a credentialing program, and 2) examinees/candidates will continue to try to cheat to gain an unfair advantage, or to try to steal exam content. The methods they will use will continue to change and may vary in a physical test center versus a remotely proctored modality.
AW: Exam development has remained largely unchanged. For psychometric purposes, we want to be as consistent as possible. What is different for testing centers are health precautions, and for remote testing, tweaks to the exam administration structure are required to protect item exposure and compensate for breaks.
What lessons have we learned from remote testing that can apply to in-person testing, and vice versa?
RM: Most testing organizations have learned that many aspects of in-person testing can also be applied to remote testing. Security provisions such as utilizing a live proctor who communicates in real time with the examinee, verifying identity, conducting enhanced security inspections to look for prohibited aids, handling examinee misconduct when it occurs, the value of surveillance recordings, etc., can all be performed in both modalities.
Similarly, testing and credentialing organizations are learning there are aspects of remote proctoring that can be applied to in-person testing. New technology such as biometrics, facial recognition, artificial intelligence and machine learning, real-time anomaly analysis and alerts to the proctors, etc., are all technologies that would be useful in a physical computer-based test center environment. Some testing organizations are trying to leverage these technologies across the different modalities they offer for a more uniform testing experience.
AW: What we have learned from remote testing is that organizations should offer advanced communication on test security measures. If you test remotely, regardless of it being in your own home or another secure location, your environment becomes the test center. Organizations should also review their break structures for in-person testing and consider if the delivery architecture is different for one group.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
RM: We are looking forward to the session!
AW: Watch out for overly casual examinees. Some people have been working from home for the better part of a year and may be more relaxed than we would like as test providers. People want to test on the couch or in bed. It has been specifically challenging to get examinees to view their role in the security process as collaborative.