The seemingly instantaneous switch to remote online learning by academic institutions on account of the global pandemic, brought about new challenges regarding the maintaining of academic integrity. Students from across the country were now forced to study and write their exams remotely without being physically invigilated. How would this impact the quality of qualifications when entering the work force?
Traditionally, examinations are monitored by a physical invigilator or an academic staff member, to ensure the student is writing in the correct venue, writing the correct paper and that no talking is taking place while the exam is in progress.
This all changed as a result of the pandemic with examinations and assessments taking place online. In 2020, universities reported a sharp increase in the number of academic misconduct events involving cheating. Not only is this counterproductive for the students themselves, resulting in loss of time, additional cost, the waste of an academic year and even possible expulsion, but it creates long-term repercussions, undermining the integrity of academic qualifications and leading to the possibility of a “lost generation” considered with suspicion by the employment market.
“If examinations are assessed inadequately, the integrity and value of the qualification endures a loss of credibility, impacting future employment”, points out academic and entrepreneur Nicholas Riemer. Together with two senior university lecturers and his software engineer brother, Nicholas was determined to develop a South African solution to this problem.
Their pioneering Invigilator App was designed by academics who are familiar with the online assessment challenges, allowing students to write remotely, while ensuring they are written under examination conditions. The all-inclusive solution is currently being used by some of South Africa’s biggest universities and colleges and has been specifically designed with the South African and African context in mind.
Full proctoring was one of the solutions available to academics at the time of the lockdown. “Full proctoring means monitoring of the student through video streaming. The major downfall of these solutions is that they require high end laptops, large amounts of data to run, and are extremely expensive” explains Riemer.
There is also a need of constant uninterrupted internet connection. “These types of solutions could possibly work in small pockets of the university but to due to the limitations is not an institution wide solution”. What this meant is that many South African universities did not have a viable and affordable solution which inspired the team to create The Invigilator app. The Invigilator runs off any entry level smartphone and does not need constant internet connection or large amounts of data. The solution has allowed for inclusivity as all students can make use of the solution, while academic integrity and the quality of qualifications is maintained.
Using Artificial Intelligence, the App offers numerous verification features such as facial recognition through ‘selfies’ to ensure that the person writing the examination is in fact the correct student. By using speech detection algorithms, the app flags when human speech is detected during the assessment and informs the lecturer for how long speech was detected for (the lecturers can then listen to the recording to confirm if unethical behaviour has been detected). The Invigilator also uses GPS proximity mapping to ensure no two students are writing the examination together and also provides ‘out-of-app’ warnings if anyone tries to google answers, or open other applications to communicate.
“The Invigilator has allowed for the move to remote assessments, enabling students to write examinations anywhere in the country”. It also caters for blended learning and continuous assessment. The application is going to allow universities to move fully online even past Covid-19, making education more affordable and accessible with a reduction in the universities fixed costs.
South African educational institutions that are turning a blind eye while testing remotely could be the downfall of the current generation. Students and institutions alike need to ask themselves: Will these qualifications mean anything, if people doubt the invigilation process due to assessments happening online?
The Invigilator was recently the top downloaded Education app in South Africa as thousands of students at various institutions began familiarising themselves with it as we head towards the examination period. Riemer is also currently a finalist for The South African Institute of Chartered Accounting’s Top-35-under-35 award.
About The Invigilator App
Launched in 2020, The Invigilator App is a tool that mitigates the risk of unethical behaviour during online assessments and examinations, using non-invasive Artificial Intelligence (AI) to prohibit collusion and cheating. Unlike international proctoring systems, The Invigilator was specifically designed by South African academics to address uniquely South African socio-economic challenges.
The Invigilator was designed for academics, by academics, and has been built and priced so that South African universities and schools can move to continuous assessment, improving teaching and learning in South Africa.
The Invigilator is the only South African online assessment system that does not exclude the more basic, older smartphone models. It is also user-friendly, requiring minimal data and battery and is the most competitive alternative to current proctoring solutions being used by many institutions. The tool can be incorporated into each institutions current systems and students can be onboarded at speed as students are able to contact its South African support centre for any assistance.
Some institutions currently using The Invigilator include the University of South Africa (UNISA), University of Johannesburg (UJ), Rhodes University (RU), North West University (NWU), Boston City Campus (BCC), University of Cape Town (UCT), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) as well as Accounting Professional Training (APT).
About The Invigilator co-founder and CEO Nicholas Riemer
Riemer is a registered chartered accountant, lecturer, and investment expert by background, who has a passion for the advancement of future-focused education solutions in under-resourced settings. After co-founding the app with two fellow academics and his software engineer brother, Riemer gave up his successful corporate financial services and teaching career to focus full-time on building and scaling The Invigilator for the South African market and beyond. It is a cause he believes in.