The difficulties of online examination

Exam season is a stressful time for all those involved, not just students but also the staff and institutes that plan and organise them. This is often the side of exams that go under the radar and yet, it is this same side that has been thrown into disarray as a result of recent global events.

When Covid-19 first struck in the UK, it was at such a time that meant many universities and other educational institutes had to panic and scramble in order to keep their exam plans alive. The impact of Covid-19 on exams was best exhibited by the fact that many important exams, including GCSEs and A-levels, were actually cancelled. The reason being that many institutes felt they simply could not fulfil ‘credible’ exams through online administration. Fast forward two years and many institutes are facing similar dilemmas. In this blog, I want to acknowledge the difficulties of online examinations before discussing the nuanced solutions being devised by Active-Class.

The easy answer, of course, is to say that online exams lose their ‘credibility’, but what does that actually mean?

When an exam lacks credibility, it means that we cannot ensure that someone who has passed it has done so fairly and honestly. It is not to assume that every student or examinee is a cheater – in fact, the vast majority are not. However, the inability to tell one way or the other raises suspicion over an entire cohort. In-person exams, for instance, have greater credibility as examinees put in a controlled exam condition, with no access to disallowed materials, and are observed by invigilators to ensure to no cheating or communication occurs. These steps to prevent cheating are fundamentally much harder to address online.

Some services, known as proctoring services, exist that aim to give institutes the insurance that examinees won’t cheat. However, any of these services are unappealing as they are either too invasive for examinees or require too much manual (human) time and effort to work. This is because the technologies used by these proctoring services are not able to effectively distinguish between simple acts of behaviour and cheating behaviour, meaning that manual observation is required.

This is where Active-Class steps in. Active-Class has used state-of-the-art AI technologies and behavioural science to devise an exam monitoring service which can more fairly and accurately invigilate exams. Due to a greater ability to distinguish between normal and cheating behaviours, Active-Class can offer a more accurate proctoring service while simultaneously providing students with a more private and stress-free environment in which they can complete their exams. When compared to other proctoring services, Active-Class stands above the rest. Not only this, but institutes can use the Active-Class learning management system (LMS) in conjunction with the Active-Class exam monitoring system.


The importance of having credible exams in the current state of education cannot be understated. As it stands, such examinations are relied upon so heavily that without credibility, the gauge of who can perform well in a certain subject or field will be completely dissipated. As such, as time goes on no action is taken, a ‘covid generation’ is being created whereby institutes and employers will judge the credibility of this era of students. This is why steps need to be taken, either in the adjustment of how we perceive exams, or by implementing state-of-the-art technologies (as Active-Class has done) in order to restore the format of old.

Oliver Herdson
Oliver Herdson

PhD Student in Cognitive Psychology