The US firm Software Secure Inc. has developed a new system that allows students to take tests from their bedrooms at any time of day or night. The University of Wales is already experimenting with this technology and dozens of others will be offered the service this summer. The system works through a unit that students plug into their computers and it incorporates software to prevent students from cheating.
Once a student feels ready to take the written exam, the technology takes a fingerprint to check his/her identity and a 360-degree webcam and microphone check that the student is not trying to cheat by receiving help from others. The computer also locks network access so that the student cannot search the internet for answers.
"The program acts in the same way as a normal invigilator. However, there are still some questions over whether a student would be able to cheat and how it would be possible, logistically, to use the system with thousands of students," said Mark Pelling, a senior administrator at the university.
With record numbers of students at university, institutions have difficulty for finding an exam hall big enough to fit all the students. “This new technology would solve this problem and save on the cost of invigilators,” Pelling said. Aaron Porter, president-elect of the National Union of Students, said the technology could be one solution to problems faced by those who might have difficulty reaching a university campus for their exams, such as disabled students or long-distance learners. But he warned against using it as an excuse to reduce the amount of contact time between students and their teachers.