Proctored Essays & Written Assignments

proctor essays and written work

Proctored essays are a thing now, thanks to generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT, Claude, and Google Gemini. These chatbots can generate content on virtually any topic in a matter of seconds. They write well, and with the right instructions, they can write just like us.

AI and plagiarism detection won't cut it

AI detection and plagiarism detection are similar, but different. Both aim to detect unoriginal content, but their focus is different.

  • AI detection looks for writing patterns, like word choice and sentence structure, to identify AI-generated text.
  • Plagiarism detection compares text against huge databases of content to identify copied or paraphrased content from other sources.

Why won't they work?

Plagiarism detection is irrelevant at this point

Most aren’t copying text word-for-word, and there are plenty of AI writing tools that can paraphrase text for them. Adding to that problem, AI chatbots don’t plagiarize.

AI detection is improving, but still waaaaay behind

They aren’t very accurate, and they’re easy to deceive—we tried it. 

That isn’t just our opinion, though.

A recent study1 tested 14 AI detection tools—12 publicly available & two commercial—against ChatGPT, and here are the findings:

AI detection tools are inaccurate: they often mistakenly identify AI-generated text as human-written, and struggle to detect AI content translated from other languages.

Manually editing responses reduces the accuracy of detection tools: swapping words, reordering sentences, and paraphrasing decreased the detection tools’ accuracy.

Prompts can help generate human-like content.

Another thing working against AI detection tools is that using specific prompt details (writing instructions) helps AI chatbots “write” like humans do.

Here are a few examples (not nearly an exhaustive list) of prompts that can help the AI write more like a human:

  • Write in simple terms and avoid technical jargon
  • Use contractions and a mix of short and long sentences
  • Keep responses clear and concise
  • Break down complex topics into smaller sections (use headers) and include analogies, similes, and metaphors for better understanding when necessary.
  • Use casual discourse markers and conversational transition phrases, like “but,” “besides,” and “in the long run,” instead of more formal ones such as “however,” “moreover,” “in conclusion,” or “ultimately.”

Try it out

First use a generic prompt like this: Summarize what photosynthesis is and why it’s important in 100 words or fewer.

Then try that same prompt, but add the examples above.

See any differences?

When would you be willing to take action?

With those inaccuracies in mind, what if the software indicates that 50% of the text is AI-generated. Would you take action at that point? Or would you require a higher percentage as for more “proof”? If so, what’s your threshold?

How to proctor essays and written assignments

Whether it’s a 1,500-word research paper or a series of short answer responses, Honorlock’s exam proctoring system makes it simple to secure essays and other written assignments, whether they’re typed or handwritten.

To sum up the process, Honorlock proctors essays just like online exams, meaning learners WON’T be able to do the following while writing:

  • Access other websites, applications, books, or their notes, unless permitted by the instructor
  • Paste content they copied before starting the essay
  • Use generative AI to answer questions or write content
  • Look up information on their cell phones
  • Ask Siri, Alexa, and other voice assistants for help

Honorlock online proctoring features to secure essays

Locks the browser to restrict access to other sites & applications

Our BrowserGuard™ feature lets you block all applications and websites except the one being used for writing, like Microsoft Word, or you can allow access only to specific applications and websites, such as research journals, while blocking everything else. This secure browser also records their screen and limits them to using one screen.

Block generative AI tools during proctored essays

Blocking AI is challenging, but Honorlock’s online proctoring system effectively prevents the use of generative AI by disabling copying and pasting, locking the browser and blocking extensions, listening for voice assistant activation commands, and detecting cell phones.

Detect cell phones & other devices

Honorlock proctoring technology detects cell phones from all angles, so you won’t need to rely on a proctor seeing a phone in real-time to know that they aren’t using them to look up information while writing their essays. Our AI detects when learners use cell phones to look up information, and it detects the presence of Apple devices in the testing area.

Detect voices to make sure Siri & Alexa aren’t helping

Honorlock’s AI proctoring technology listens for “Alexa” or “Hey Siri” and other specific commands that activate voice assistants. If any suspicious activity occurs, it alerts a live proctor to review it, records what was said, and provides a transcript for review.

This allows learners to talk through their essays without being flagged for irrelevant sounds like doorbells or coughing.

But what if a learner accidentally triggers our voice detection by saying a phrase that’s also a command for a voice assistant, such as “Okay Google”?

Our AI would notify a live proctor, but the proctor doesn’t immediately intervene. Instead, they review the situation in an analysis window, and if they determine no cheating occurred, they won’t intervene or disrupt the learner.

Block copying & pasting

Honorlock’s secure test browser prevents keyboard shortcuts, like copying and pasting. This also blocks them from pasting text they copied from another source before the test.

Scan the room for unauthorized resources & other people

Instructors can require a room scan before starting the proctored essay. This ensures that no unauthorized resources, like cell phones and books, or other people are in the room. 

Verify who they are

Quickly authenticates their identity—it takes about a minute or less— to ensure the person writing the essay is the same as the person getting credit.

Additional settings to proctor handwritten essays (or math) using pen/pencil and paper

Adjust proctoring settings

The instructor turns on Scratch Paper Allowed within Honorlock’s proctoring settings, and the AI won’t flag learners for looking down at their paper. 

The learner simply shows the blank paper before they start writing and uploads the written essay after they complete it.

Give the live proctor instructions & rules allowing handwritten essays

Providing the proctor with instructions that allow handwritten essays and rules for learners helps keep the review process organized.

Essay rules can include things like:

  • Only use a black or dark blue pen and blank/lined white paper
  • You can write on both sides of the paper
  • Before you begin writing, hold the blank paper up to the camera and show both sides
  • Write the question number in the top left corner of the paper
  • Hold the paper up to the camera after you finish writing your response to each question

How does Honorlock work?

Honorlock’s hybrid proctoring software and services combine AI with live proctors and 24/7 live support.

Unlike other online proctoring services, Honorlock makes the entire experience smooth and hassle-free. Remotely proctored exams can be taken 24/7 without the need for scheduling, and learners can get technical support from a real person. During proctored essays and assessments, learners won’t struggle with old, slow software or feel uncomfortable because a live proctor—a stranger—is watching them the entire time.

AI monitors behavior

The AI proctoring software monitors behavior during online exams and other course activities, like essays.

Detects misconduct?

The AI alerts a live proctor to review potentially problematic behavior in an analysis window.

No misconduct, no intervention

The proctor intervenes only if misconduct occurs.

Otherwise, the learner won’t be interrupted, and instructors and admins won't need to review irrelevant flags.

Access exam reports & recordings

After proctored tests are complete, test admins can filter reports and review recordings to focus on important flagged behavior. Test sessions are recorded in HD video and include easy-to-read summary reports with human-validated violations.

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1Weber-Wulff, D., Anohina-Naumeca, A., Bjelobaba, S. et al. Testing of detection tools for AI-generated text. Int J Educ Integr 19, 26 (2023).

Benefits of a Smart Proctoring Approach in Higher Education

Taking a smarter proctoring approach in higher education

As technology develops and online education progresses, online proctoring has evolved from a ‘nice to have’ to an indispensable tool. While proctoring is usually seen as a way to catch cheating, a smart approach can help tackle critical challenges in higher education:

  • Reducing instructor burnout
  • Expanding access to education
  • Preparing students for the workforce
  • Protecting exam integrity in the AI era

When done the right way, remote proctoring benefits students, instructors, and institutions alike.

Tackling academic integrity in the AI era

AI tools, particularly Chatbots like ChatGPT, are undoubtedly challenging academic integrity in higher education. While institutions are tasked with preparing students for an AI-driven world, they also must ensure AI doesn’t interfere with exams. Some have turned to plagiarism checkers and AI detection tools, but they’re unreliable at best; with a few small tweaks to the writing instructions (prompts), AI-generated content is basically undetectable.

On the other hand, Honorlock’s smart proctoring platform gives instructors a suite of tools to detect and block the unauthorized use of AI tools:

  • AI extension blocking: blocks AI extensions running on students’ devices exams, while still allowing permitted accessibility technology.
  • BrowserGuard™: restricts access to AI like ChatGPT during online exams and prevents keyboard shortcuts so students can’t copy and paste content over to the proctored exam or assignment.
  • Smart Voice Detection: detects when students use phrases that can activate smart devices like Alexa or Siri, which could be used to get help from AI tools.

With Honorlock’s remote proctoring solution, online exams become more secure, and students’ hard work stays valuable and respected, even as AI technology keeps growing.

Easing instructor workloads

Administrative tasks, especially during test administration and grading, can be time-consuming and overwhelming for educators. 

Honorlock saves instructors time during exam delivery with:

  • A direct LMS integration, which means the experience is the same except for a few clicks to choose the proctoring tools you want to enable or disable.
  • 24/7 live, U.S.-based support and our knowledgebase, which is filled with FAQs, how-to articles, and practical exam tips.

Moreover, remote proctoring eliminates the need for faculty to monitor exams in person, letting them focus more on teaching, guiding, and connecting with their students. These benefits go a long way towards preventing teacher burnout and create a more effective testing environment for everyone.

Reducing overhead costs

Remote proctoring helps colleges and universities offer more exams online, which saves money by reducing the need for physical test centers and associated overhead costs.

Offering students more flexibility and access

Online proctoring services like Honorlock offer students more flexibility to take exams where and when they want without scheduling.

What if a student’s internet connection is slow or their camera is broken? 

While most remote proctoring companies kick students out when any issues arise, Honorlock supports low bandwidth and instructors can provide students with accommodations that allow them to take proctored exams without a working webcam.

In addition, Honorlock’s virtual proctoring platform is fully ADA accessible, compliant with Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and developed and tested to conform to WCAG 2.0 level AA guidelines for accessible use.

See how Coastal Alabama Community College raises the bar for effective, accessible, live proctoring with Honorlock.

Protecting content and reputation

“Homework help” sites like Chegg and community forums like Reddit make it easy to find and share your proprietary exam content. Once that happens, exam integrity goes down the drain and it can even put your reputation at risk—remember all of the cheating scandals in higher education in recent years?

Some virtual proctoring services have tools that protect test content, but they’re manual, tedious, and time-consuming because you search for individual questions, one at a time, and send your own takedown requests one at a time. By the way, who do you even send them to? What do you say? 

Honorlock’s proctoring platform searches the internet automatically for your leaked questions and gives you a one-click option to send a takedown request. Simple and easy.

Honorlock protects your content and school’s reputation, which also ensures adherence to accreditation standards.

Preparing students for the workplace

The value of virtual exam proctoring also extends into career preparation by completing real-world tasks during assessments, often called Authentic Assessments. 

With Honorlock, instructors can assess students’ ability to perform practical tasks without cheating concerns, such as using software like Microsoft Excel and delivering virtual presentations—crucial skills for the modern workforce.

This simplifies the assessment process and prepares students for realistic tasks they’ll encounter in their future careers, bridging the gap between academia and professional expectations.

Eyeing the future of online education

By offering secure, convenient, and accessible online exams, colleges and universities can meet modern students’ demands and directly address common challenges in higher education, such as declining enrollments and student retention. 

Integrating online proctoring in higher education is a strategic advantage that improves online education at every level, from assessments and accessibility to convenience and career readiness.

Discover Honorlock’s proctoring services and software

See how Honorlock’s smarter proctoring solution—a combination of live proctors backed by AI test monitoring software—can create significant improvements to the entire assessment process.

What is remote proctoring and how does it work?

Everything you need to know about remote proctoring and how it works.

What is remote proctoring?

Remote proctoring, or online proctoring, uses software and/or live remote proctors to:

  • Record and monitor test takers’ behavior
  • Verify identity
  • Protect test content
  • Prevent cheating

How does remote proctoring work?

  • Before the exams start: test takers normally use the webcam to verify their identity and scan the room for unauthorized resources, like cell phones, notes, and even other people.
  • During the exams: test takers are monitored through video, audio, and other AI proctoring tools and/or a live remote proctor, depending on the service.
  • After the exams: ideally, the proctoring service will provide test admins with time-stamped reports with recordings of flagged behavior to review.
  • LMS integration: the remote proctoring platform should integrate directly with the LMS, which improves security, doesn’t require extra passwords and logins, and basically makes it the same experience with the exception of a few clicks (instructors just click to choose the proctoring features they want to use and test takers login to the LMS and take the test in the same environment).

Remote proctoring software tools & features

Standard tools and features in remote proctoring software

  • Video monitoring: uses the webcam to record behavior during the proctored exam.
  • Browser lockdown: prevents access to other browsers and applications, and restricts keyboard shortcuts.
  • Sound detection: flags most noises during exams, such as talking, music, dogs barking, etc. Different from voice detection.
  • ID verification: uses the webcam to verify identity before the exam.

Advanced remote proctoring tools & features

In addition to the standard tools above, some remote proctoring companies offer advanced tools and features:

  • Cell phone detection: detects when test takers try to use cell phones and other devices during proctored exams and the presence of Apple devices in the testing area.
  • Smart Voice Detection: listens for specific keywords and phrases that can indicate exam misconduct, like “Hey Siri,” and other commands that trigger voice assistants. Then, it records the audio and provides a transcript of what was said. Smart Voice Detection is different from sound detection, which flags basically any noise.
  • Live Pop-In: AI-based proctoring monitors test takers and alerts a live remote proctor if it detects potential cheating. The proctor can review the behavior and decide whether to intervene or not.
  • Analytics Hub™: provides easily filterable, in-depth reports with actionable insights into test integrity that streamline review a 360-degree view of academic integrity.

Types of remote proctoring

Browser lockdown software

Entry-level proctoring software that helps prevent access to other browsers and keyboard shortcuts. 

  • Usually cheap, but you get what you pay for because it doesn’t really prevent cheating since test takers can still use their cell phones and other resources.

AI remote proctoring

Only uses artificial intelligence to monitor remote exams.

  • Offers diverse tools to monitor behavior and prevent cheating.
  • No human oversight, which can negatively impact the experience for test takers and test administrators.
    • For example, if the proctoring software uses sound detection (different from voice detection) with no live proctor: if a test taker sneezes, the AI flags the noise, and it could even kick them out of the proctored test.
    • Imagine how many unimportant noises could be flagged during tests (coughing, tapping the desk, dog barking) that admins will need to review if a human proctor isn’t there to check the AI.

Live remote proctoring

A live proctor monitors multiple test takers at once. 

  • Typically the most expensive type of remote proctoring.
  • Being watched can be distracting and stressful (and creepy) for test takers.
  • Can work well if the proctor isn’t watching too many test takers at once—rarely the case—a proctor is usually watching 10 or more test takers at once, which can make it easy to miss problematic behaviors.
  • Exam scheduling can be a hassle because test takers have to find a time that aligns with the proctor’s availability.

Blended remote proctoring

Combines live proctors with AI and browser lockdown software.

  • Locks the browser and uses AI to monitor behavior.
  • AI alerts a live proctor if it detects potential misconduct.
  • After the proctor is alerted, they can review a recording of the situation and intervene if necessary.

Who uses remote proctoring?

Remote proctoring is used in higher education and professional education.

Remote proctoring LMS integrations

Integrating remote proctoring software with your LMS can be the difference between a quick and secure implementation and one that could compromise data security and create a frustrating experience for test takers and administrators.

Proctoring platforms typically integrate with Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, D2L, and Intellum. Some online proctoring services offer custom integration toolkits to create tailored integrations that meet your specific needs.

How much does proctoring cost?

The cost of proctoring depends on the type and the company, but keep these in mind when comparing proctoring services:
  • Look for flat-rate proctoring to avoid variable costs: unexpected costs can add up quickly if the proctoring service charges per hour for exams, so find a remote proctoring service with a flat rate cost per exam or test taker.
  • Make sure support costs are included
  • Do test takers have to pay extra to reschedule a proctored exam?

Honorlock proctoring software and services

Honorlock’s blended remote proctoring combines AI with live proctoring to make online exams simple, easy, and human in higher education and professional education.

Whether it’s detecting cell phones and voices or preventing the use of AI like ChatGPT and locking the browser, you’ll have confidence that academic integrity is protected.

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7 tips for Online Proctoring of STEM Exams

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses offer unique challenges when it comes to online assessments: equations can be difficult to replicate in a virtual environment and often exams are high-stakes tests. How do you ensure that you are successfully administering online, paper-based STEM exams that maintain academic integrity? We recently sat down with Kate Beverage, Director of Technology in Teaching and Learning Services at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and discussed best practices for delivering online proctored paper-based STEM exams with Honorlock. She provided her top seven tips for proctoring STEM exams and STEM classes online:

1. Remind instructors to include specific instructions for Honorlock proctors when they enable their exams.

Honorlock student guidelines

When administering online exams, encourage your faculty to include notes specifying if it is a paper-based assessment where the student may divert their eyes down as they work to solve a problem. By including specific instructions, live proctors are made aware and don’t necessarily have to pop-in and interrupt the student. Prepare an instruction template the instructors can use that can easily be customized on their end if needed. Review Honorlock’s recommended Standard Exam Guidelines for more information.

2. Prepare a list for faculty of the recommended settings for your LMS and Honorlock.

Honorlock Proctoring Settings

Put together a recommended settings list for your LMS that points to Honorlock’s resources that describe the settings in greater detail. It removes any confusion and ensures the proctoring tool is used to its fullest capacity. Partner with your Customer Success Manager if you are unsure of what settings make the most sense for you and your institution.

3. Designate a department exam champion.

Select an instructor who will be fully trained and fluent in using Honorlock remote proctoring in addition to having direct access to the CSM in order to quickly help faculty with questions above and beyond the typical use of Honorlock, which can be handled by Honorlock Support. This is particularly useful for a school-wide implementation of the platform where managing proctoring and responding to best practice inquiries can prove challenging. These champions can offer recommendations in terms of test design.

4. Develop an exam question pool to deter cheating.

Work with your assessment design team to create question pools. By having a greater pool, you increase your exam security. Make it a point to review and update your exam pools each semester the course is offered to reduce question sharing among students. WPI recommends taking advantage of Honorlock’s Search and Destroy feature to ensure that copies of your questions are removed from test aid sites.

5. Offer reasonable exam time limits and availability.

Give students a reasonable time to submit their paper-based work that pertains to the exam. Allow extra time for students to properly complete this step. WPI recommends not releasing answers or test scores until all students have completed the exam to reduce the possibility of sharing insight into the exam among each other.

6. Partner with instructional designers when designing exams to mitigate cheating.

Navigating the art of exam writing can be a challenge. Ensure that your faculty taps into their instructional design team to optimize their online assessments. Discuss with your instructional designer the possibility of using images on your tests or displaying one question on the screen at a time for high stakes exams.

7. Have students take the Honorlock practice exam.

Doing the practice exam takes a lot of pressure off for students. It removes the mystery of an online proctored exam before the actual exam.  You don’t want to add extra stress or pressure on students when they’re already trying to learn the content.

These seven tips will guide you in successfully administering virtual assessments for your institution’s STEM classes online in the fall semester and beyond. Do you want to learn more about how Honorlock can proctor your paper-based online exams? Click here to speak with one of our representatives and get a product demo.  

 Learn more about Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s experience using Honorlock for STEM exams in their recent testimonial

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How to Detect Cheating On Online Exams

It’s can be reeeeeally difficult to stop test takers from cheating. 

It takes a combination of technology, strategy, and understanding (we cover all of them in this article) to prevent it from happening.

Using remote proctoring technology to prevent cheating on online exams

There are tons of features and factors to consider when it comes to remote proctoring.

What kind of proctoring tools do you need? How do they work? Which should you prioritize?

We’ll help you sort out what you need (hint: it’s much more than a browser lockdown).

Key tools within remote proctoring software

Recording test takers

One of the first questions to consider is how you’ll monitor test takers’ behavior during exams, such as:

  • Video monitoring so you can see if they’re trying to look at their notes and use other resources during the test.
  • Smart Voice detection (not sound detection) so you can tell if they’re talking to someone else in the room or asking Siri for help, but not have to review flags for unimportant noises like coughing or a doorbell ringing.
  • Screen monitoring so you can see if they try to access other websites or attempt to copy and paste questions into a document).

Cell phone detection

Cell phones are a huge threat to exam integrity. They’re discreet and almost everyone has one.

Luckily, Honorlock can detect cell phones and other devices, like tablets and smart watches, that are used to look up information during an online exam.

Test content protection

Leaked test content is as annoying as it is common.

Community forums like Reddit and sites like Quizlet and Chegg that pretend they’re used for “homework help” make it all too easy.

But, you can use Honorlock’s proprietary Search and destroy technology to automatically scan the web for your leaked test content and send takedown requests with one click.

Easy peasy.

Identity Authentication

You want to make sure that the person taking the exam is who they say they are. 

Online proctoring systems that capture a photo of both the test taker and their ID can help you make sure that test taers are only getting credit for the work they do themselves.

AI protection

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT can write about anything and answer just about any question.

Using AI plagiarism detection tools won’t work either. We’ve tried.

Honorlock has a bunch of tools that can help by blocking AI extensions, preventing copying and pasting, recording their desktops, and restricting access to specific sites and applications.

See more Honorlock remote proctoring tools & features

Test strategies to prevent cheating

These are some of our instructors’ favorite tips and tricks to help you protect test content and make sure assessments are actually tracking learning (and not just cheating skills). 

Test Banks – Step one to prevent test takers from successfully copying and sharing exam content is to make sure each exam is a little different. By creating a bank of test questions (especially similar questions with slightly different answers), you can throw a wrench in plans to cheat and keep everyone honest.

One Question at a Time – Nothing invites a test taker to share test content quite like having the whole exam displayed all at once. By only displaying one question at a time, you make sure they can’t grab a screenshot of the entire exam in one fell swoop. Cheating becomes more difficult (and more annoying).

Time Limits – Ultimately, even when a test taker is motivated to cheat, most of them are focused first on their own success and secondarily on sharing exam content. This is where time limits come in handy—by putting a tight rein on time, you don’t give them the leeway to grab and share information, and you help them prioritize their own grades over dishonesty.

Restricting Information Access – To successfully provide online assessments, you need a proctoring system that allows you to keep test takers from searching the web or opening other applications while still providing access to the content they need to complete the test.

Feedback – If you provide test takers with immediate feedback on multiple-choice questions, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t reprint the test questions and answers. Instead, create feedback that responds to the general ideas and lets learners know where they can learn more about missed concepts without sharing specific details. This makes it just a bit harder to remember, grab, and share content with others.

Why does cheating happen during exams?

Another component to prevent cheating: understanding why they try to in the first place.

What motivates them, and how can you address those issues to help keep them honest while promoting academic integrity?

It Comes Down to Opportunity

In online courses, the need and rationalization for cheating are pretty similar to what a learner might feel in a face-to-face class. 

But the most significant difference in online contexts—and the one that’s most difficult to mitigate—is opportunity

The good news? The right policies and technology go a long way toward protecting test integrity. 

The need for good grades

The impetus for academic dishonesty is most often the need to pass a class, maintain a GPA, or complete a degree. This pressure is amplified when final grades are comprised of the results of just a few high-stakes exams.

When online courses follow this format, it becomes even easier to cave into the pressure.

So, what can you do? For starters, create a framework that uses more low-stakes exams, quizzes, and discussion boards throughout the semester to take away some of the weight. This gives them a chance to better target their studying, and they end up feeling like their efforts pay off.

Rationalizing the guilt away

Of course, to be able to cheat, test takers also need a rationale. In online classes, this often comes down to a sense that they’re unlikely to be caught. Or, perhaps, they think that everyone else is doing it. When it seems easy and worth trying, they do. 

To help test taker think more carefully about decisions to cheat, you can make sure they’re aware of your policies. Make sure they know the rules as well as what the consequences will be. When the threat of discipline is clearly understood, they’ll think twice before they opt to cheat.

The pitfalls of online exams

Why are online courses more vulnerable? For starters, you can’t supervise test takers directly. It can be far more challenging to monitor their behavior and restrict what resources they can access. For another, because testing can be staggered and doesn’t all take place at a specific time, it’s easier for them to grab and share test information with classmates. But what can you do about it?

Want to see Honorlock in action? Schedule a demo.

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Implementation Webinar: How Two Colleges Quickly Set Up Online Proctoring

Implementing software or any new technology can be a daunting task, but what if that implementation was strategically streamlined, expertly project managed, and fully supported throughout? Hear from two current Honorlock online proctoring customers as they speak to their experience implementing our online exam technology.

During this implementation webinar, each college will describe:

  • Implementation experience
  • The simple and speedy implementation timeline
  • Who was involved in the decision process and actual implementation
  • Ongoing technical support


Honorlock online proctoring customer

Cody Moyer

Director of Learning Technology Polk State College

Steven Daniello

Director of Assessment Services Indian River State College

Jose Gonzalez

Director of Customer Success @Honorlock

Honorlock’s Online Proctoring Software Detects Cell Phones During Online Exams

Does Honorlock detect cell phones?

Imagine a week without your cell phone. For many, it’d seem pretty strange because they’re so intertwined in our lives. With a few taps—or words to Siri and Alexa—we use them to track our workouts, set timers while we cook, adjust our thermostats, and even monitor our health.

Unfortunately, the use cases also extend to being used to gain an unfair advantage during online exams. In fact, it’s the number one violation Honorlock sees during our remotely proctored exams.

Test takers use them to search the internet for answers, ask AI tools like ChatGPT for help, and interact with voice assistants like Siri and Alexa.

Fortunately, Honorlock’s online proctoring solution has the most comprehensive approach to detecting cell phones and preventing them from being used during online exams.

How does Honorlock detect cell phones?

Honorlock’s cell phone detection involves a combination of several proctoring tools in addition to review by our live proctors.

Multi-device detection

Honorlock’s proctoring software can determine when test takers try to use their cell phones to access test bank content during their exams. This feature protects against tablets as well.

Apple Handoff Detection

Our newest feature, Apple Handoff Detection, is exclusive to Honorlock and detects if a phone is present in the testing area. Our proctors then add a violation if the test taker is seen using a cell phone during the exam.

But even if it’s an Android phone, their behaviors to use the phone will likely be flagged by our AI. For example, AI flags when a test-taker looks down or voices specific keywords like “Google” or “Siri”.

Once flagged by the AI, a live proctor will watch the session live to determine if the test taker is using a cell phone or not.

Prioritized proctor review

All violations for suspected cell phone use are reviewed and verified by a human proctor to give you confidence in your exam results. In addition, Honorlock’s proctors are trained to spot cell phones that can be seen in reflections or light emitting from the phone.

Speech detection

Honorlock’s speech detection is ideal for instances when test-akers use voice commands to interact with voice assistants, like Siri or Alexa, on a device hidden from the webcam.

Our speech detection listens for specific keywords and phrases that activate and operate voice assistants, such as “Hey Siri,” “Alexa,” or “OK Google.”

This approach allows test takers to speak aloud while solving problems without being unnecessarily flagged and interrupted. It also creates a better testing experience compared to proctoring solutions that use sound detection, which can flag unimportant sounds like coughing or a dog barking.

About Honorlock

What is Honorlock?

Honorlock is an online proctoring company that partners with higher education institutions and professional education organizations, providing software and services that protect academic integrity and support test takers 24/7/365.

How does Honorlock work?

Honorlock blends live human proctoring with AI-proctoring tools to prevent cheating and create a non-invasive testing environment with fewer distractions.

Here’s how Honorlock’s exam proctoring works:

Other Honorlock features and benefits

In addition to the cell phone detection tools we mentioned earlier and our blended proctoring approach, Honorlock also:

Blocks AI tools like ChatGPT

Honorlock’s proctoring solution uses a combination of tools to block the use of AI and extensions, like ChatGPT and Transcript, during exams.

Provides 24/7/365 US-based test proctoring with live support

Proctored exams can be taken anytime without scheduling, and live support is available if needed.

Uses the webcam to record behavior and scan the room

The test taker’s webcam is used to monitor behavior throughout the proctored exam and it can be used for an optional 360-degree room scan to ensure no unauthorized resources or people are present prior to starting an exam.

Locks the browser

Honorlock’s BrowserGuard™ prevents (and/or flags) access to other browsers and applications and disables keyboard shortcuts like copying and pasting during proctored exams.

Verifies ID

Quickly verifies and authenticates test taker identity to ensure the person taking the test is the same as the person getting credit.

Finds leaked test content

Honorlock’s Search & Destroy™ technology automatically finds leaked test content on the internet and gives test administrators the ability to send content takedown requests with one click.

Protects exams taken on third-party platforms

Proctor exams on third-party platforms such as MyMathLab, Pearson, and more.

Integrates with your LMS

Honorlock’s proctoring software integrates with: Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, D2L Brightspace, Intellum, Docebo*, and Open LMS. We also provide open APIs for custom integrations.

*Coming soon

Puts accessibility first

With minimal system requirements, support for low bandwidth, integrations with accessibility technologies, and individual accommodations ensures a fair and accessible testing experience for all learners.

Learn more about how Honorlock’s approach to online proctoring is revolutionizing and improving the entire testing experience in higher education and professional education.

Accommodating All Test-takers: Honorlock’s Accessibility-First Approach

Honorlock's accessibility first approach

Accommodating All Test-takers: Honorlock’s Accessibility-First Approach

Accessibility-first approach

Test-takers are faced with many unknowns as they navigate online testing. Individuals who need accommodations are often met with strict guidelines and difficult system requirements that limit their ability to take an exam comfortably. Remote proctoring is often seen as just a way to prevent cheating or other misconduct within online exams, but the right approach can also improve accessibility for all test-takers.

Honorlock aims for genuine accessibility for all users. We engage a third-party to conduct a yearly end-to-end accessibility test across all workflows to ensure accessibility and build our Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). Honorlock spreads knowledge throughout our organization with regular accessibility training. As our accessibility-certified engineers develop our solutions, we focus on building features with an accessibility-first mindset. This means providing flexible accommodations, integrating with assistive technology, conforming to compliance standards and guidelines, and routinely reviewing the accessibility of our offerings. To drive continuous improvement, we conduct regular audits throughout the year to ensure we address any accessibility bugs, keep up with new WCAG standards, and adjust accordingly.

Independent third-party accessibility audits

Thorough VPAT for test-takers & admins

Spread knowledge across the organization

Accessibility-first approach

Constant improvement

Student preparation tools

When users feel prepared and comfortable using the features available, technology is accessible. Honorlock’s online proctoring platform is designed to be easy to use for exam admins and test-takers alike.

Practice exams

Practice Exams are the perfect way for exam administrators and exam-takers to get familiar with using Honorlock. These are enabled by exam admins so exam-takers can surface any questions before they’re in a real exam.

Student tutorial

HonorPrep, our guided tour, has unlimited uses and lets students prepare for their first Honorlock exam. It includes a system check, authentication walkthrough, and sample room scan.

Knowledge Base

For students who need more in-depth help, Honorlock’s Knowledge Base details specific guides for common issues and has detailed FAQs.

Accommodating all test-takers with Honorlock

Minimal system requirements

Exams should be accessible for everyone, regardless of Internet connection. Honorlock proctored exams don’t “boot out” test-takers when a challenge or error arises. Our goal is to help test-takers complete their exams as seamlessly as possible, without inducing extra anxiety.

For students with low bandwidth, Honorlock adjusts our reporting and session viewer so that the test-taker can complete their exam even on an unstable network. Our solution still captures still images to compensate for slower networks to allow test-takers to complete their exams.

Test-takers in rural communities are able to take their exams at any time of day, without a required hardwire connection. We also allow users to take their exams on Wi-Fi or hotspots, unlike other providers.


Honorlock accommodates those who need text to be read aloud with a screen reading capability. Check out the functionality in the video below.

Keyboard accessible

Exam administrators and test-takers are able to navigate within Honorlock. An outline appears while tabbing provides clear guidance on where users are navigating within Honorlock.

Human proctoring and decision-making

Human involvement means we can make human decisions around accessibility. Our live proctors are trained in de-escalation and focus on the success of the test-taker. For example, our live proctor will review accommodations before intervening. If a test-taker is allowed to wear headphones, per an accommodation, the live proctor would refrain from intervening and interrupting the exam session.


Exam administrators can enter any specific accommodations for test-takers, such as additional time or breaks to complete their exams. This includes extensions enabled for assistive purposes or other assistive technology, such as dictation software. Honorlock will respect accommodations configured within the LMS as well.

Some sample accommodations include:

Smart Speech Detection

Honorlock’s Smart Speech Detection listens for keywords and phrases that may indicate exam misconduct, like “Hey Siri” and “OK Google”, which allows test-takers to read aloud without being flagged and interrupted.

Honorlock meets accessibility standards

Honorlock’s accessibility highlights

Honorlock aims for excellence when meeting accessibility standards. Our experts keep us ahead of the curve and allow every test-taker to experience a seamless testing experience.

Not all remote proctoring solutions are alike

Not all remote proctoring solutions are alike and there are some key elements you should consider. By building out your own accessibility checklist, you can be sure that your proctoring partner is the best fit for your test-takers. Consider adding some of the questions below when comparing services.

To learn more, please review Honorlock’s Accessibility Statement. If you would like to discuss building out your own accessibility checklist or statement, get in touch today.

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Strategies to stop new types of contract cheating

Strategies to stop new types of contract cheating

What is contract cheating?

Contract cheating means using paid or unpaid third parties (people, services, or tools) to complete tests or assignments. In the past, it meant things like someone else writing your essay or getting answers from “homework help” sites like Chegg and Course Hero. 

Contract cheating is evolving. It now includes paid test-taking services that use remote access software to control a learner’s device and complete tests on their behalf. It also includes the misuse of AI tools like ChatGPT, which a March 2023 survey indicated is used by over 1 in 5 learners to complete exams and assignments.1

Detecting contract cheating… or preventing it?

Do you only want to detect that it happened or prevent it from happening altogether? Detecting cheating is a very different experience than preventing it altogether. 

For example, using tools to detect AI plagiarism in essays can be challenging. While those detection tools were moderately effective in the past, AI tools like ChatGPT don’t plagiarize and can be instructed to write just like humans, leading to false positives and overall accuracy issues.

And if those detection tools indicate that portions of an essay were AI-generated, what’s the threshold to take action? Should they take action when 1% of the essay is AI-generated? 25%? 50%? Regardless of percentage, if AI and plagiarism detection tools aren’t accurate and they’re easy to beat, you’ll have an uphill battle.

So, why try to detect that contract cheating happened when you can prevent it from happening at all?

The rest of this article shows you how to use online proctoring software to stop contract cheating (and other types of cheating).

Here’s how to prevent different types of contract cheating:

1. Paying a test-taking service that uses remote access software to take the test for the person getting credit

Have you ever had an issue on your computer and a support technician remotely accessed your computer to fix it? That’s basically how this form of contract cheating happens.

The person getting credit pays a proxy test-taking service to have a subject matter expert remotely access their desktop and take the test for them.

This type of cheating can be difficult to catch because the person getting credit is still on camera while the subject matter expert has control of their desktop and completes the test for them. Because the person getting credit stays on screen, ID verification methods won’t be able to stop this form of contract cheating.

Here’s how Honorlock’s online exam proctoring software beats this form of cheating:

Displaying countries of test: Honorlock’s platform shows the countries where tests were taken based on IP address. If there’s a trend of tests taken in countries with no known test takers, it might indicate the use of proxy test-taking services, prompting further investigation.

Blocking applications: Certain settings within Honorlock’s proctoring platform can be used to block remote access applications.

Requiring keyboard commands before starting the test while recording the screen: Instructions, or even the first test question, can require test takers to use keyboard commands, such as Ctrl+Alt+Del (Windows) or Cmd+Opt+Esc (Mac), to display the applications and processes running on the device. Honorlock’s software also records desktops, allowing exam administrators to review the recording if there’s any suspicion that someone else took the test on the test taker’s behalf.

2. Using AI tools like ChatGPT

Using AI tools like ChatGPT without permission is considered contract cheating because it still involves the use of a third party and isn’t the person’s original work.

ChatGPT generates written responses and answers questions about basically any topic. With the right prompts, it can write just like a person, and AI or plagiarism detection software can’t really catch them.

Here’s how Honorlock’s remote proctoring software helps block and control AI tools:

Detects cell phones and browser extensions: Honorlock’s proctoring software can detect when test takers try to look up answers on their cell phonesas well as device-sharing applications like Apple Handoff.

Listens for voices (not just sounds) to ensure there’s no help from Siri or other voice assistants: Honorlock’s Smart Voice Detection listens for keywords and phrases like “Hey Siri” and “Alexa,” which could be used in addition to voice dictation to operate ChatGPT on another device.

Blocks access to other sites and disables keyboard shortcuts: With Honorlock’s BrowserGuard™, learners won’t be able to access sites like ChatGPT or copy text beforehand and paste it as their own. 

Uses the webcam to monitor behavior and check the room for unauthorized devices and resources

3. Paying someone else to write their essay

To prevent this form of contract cheating, have learners write their essays while online proctoring is monitoring behavior.

Here’s how Honorlock can stop this form of contract cheating:

Verifies ID: Honorlock makes ID verification easy by capturing a picture of the test-taker and their photo ID in about 60 seconds.

Locks the browser while still allowing access to certain sites: This is important because there may be instances where you want the learner to have access to certain resources while they’re writing, like an online research journal, but still want to block all other sites.

Prevents copying and pasting: Honorlock’s BrowserGuard™ prevents keyboard shortcuts, which means they can’t copy text before they start the essay and paste it into their response.

Uses video to monitor behavior and check for unauthorized resources

In addition to the features mentioned earlier in this article, Honorlock also provides:

LMS integrations: Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, D2L Brightspace, and Intellum directly integrate with Honorlock’s online proctoring platform. We also provide a developer toolkit for custom integrations, giving you the power to create a tailored integration that meets your specific needs.

24/7/365 online exam proctoring with live support: Honorlock’s proctoring services and support are on-demand, which means exams can be taken anytime, day or night, and live support is available.

Test content protection: Search & Destroy™ finds leaked test content on the internet and gives exam admins the option to send one-click content takedown requests.

Third-party test proctoring: Allows seamless test proctoring on third-party platforms such as MyMathLab, Pearson, and more.

As contract cheating evolves and unfortunately grows, so should your strategies and technologies to beat it. Honorlock’s online proctoring software and services put you in control and keep you one step ahead of whatever comes next.

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1Half of College Students Say Using AI on Schoolwork Is Cheating or Plagiarism. (2023, March). BestColleges. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from

See the surprising ways online proctoring improves testing

Best features and benefits of online proctoring software

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1. Blocks AI tools like ChatGPT

ChatGPT and other similar AI tools can answer test questions and write in-depth responses in a matter of seconds. And it’s even more concerning that tools for AI detection and plagiarism can’t really detect AI-generated content.

But with remote proctoring software, you can prevent these tools from being used during online exams. But you’ll need a lot more than browser lockdown software because a test taker can just use their cell phone to beat it.

Your proctoring platform also needs these features to block AI:

Cell phone detection: detects when test takers try to look up answers on their cell phones as well as device-sharing applications.

Extension Detection Technology: browser extensions, like Transcript, can make it easy to cheat by automatically answering test questions. They’re easily accessible and very common, but with extension detection technology, you’ll know when test takers attempt to use them.

Smart Voice Detection: listens for keywords and phrases like “Hey Siri,” which could be used in addition to voice dictation to operate ChatGPT on another device.

Video monitoring: the webcam monitors and records behavior and checks the room for cell phones, notes, and even other people.

2. Proctors hands-on alternative assessments that create real-world situations

Traditional questions, like multiple choice, are staples in assessments, but it’s just as important to assess knowledge with alternative assessments that recreate real-world situations, sometimes referred to as authentic assessments.

“If they aren’t going through those kinds of things, they may not be prepared for the next level or applying it in a real situation,” Paul Fisher, Associate CIO & Director of the TLT Center at Seton Hall University.

But the issue is that most online proctoring platforms have rigid settings that limit the types of questions that can be proctored.

However, some have flexible settings that can proctor activities that recreate real-world situations, such as:

Fisher gave examples of how Seton Hall uses online proctoring for alternative assessments: “The accounting programs use Honorlock to proctor tests where they’re using software to fix balance sheets and other similar documents, while other programs use it for short answer and essay questions.”

3. Detects cell phones and browser extensions

Did you know that over 70% of exam violations are caused by test takers using cell phones or another device?

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why online proctoring software with cell phone detection is so important to protecting exam integrity. This software can detect device-sharing applications, like Apple Handoff, and when test takers try to look up answers on their cell phones.

4. Finds leaked test content on the internet

Unfortunately, it’s pretty common for instructors to find leaked test content on sites like Chegg and Quizlet. That’s why you need Search and Destroy™ technology, which automatically searches the internet for your leaked test content and gives you the ability to send one-click takedown requests.

5. Reduces testing costs

Physical testing centers’ overhead costs, such as utilities and maintenance, staff wages, and hardware and software, can be expensive. Online proctoring can help save money by reducing (or even eliminating) the need for physical testing centers.

6. Gives more time to teach instead of administer tests

How many hours of your course hours are spent administering tests?

“The time savings reaped by faculty is an estimated 8.5 hours per semester, per course… That’s nearly three weeks worth of class time returned to the faculty member.” Brian Marchman, Assistant Provost & Director of Distance Learning & Continuing Education, University of Florida

How much more value could you give to learners if you had those hours back? Honorlock’s on-demand remote proctoring can give you those hours back because tests can be taken outside of class hours and live support is available 24/7/365.

7. Increases access & improves accessibility

According to the US Department of Education, 1 in 5 college students have a disability, and more than 40% of students paying tuition independently are in or near poverty. With that in mind:

Honorlock’s proctoring software is compliant with web accessibility standards and allows instructors to provide accommodations, like taking a proctored assessment without a webcam. And if a test taker has slow internet speed, our software has failsafes in place that work when internet speeds drop below streaming video thresholds. And with Honorlock’s 24/7 proctoring and live support, test takers with busy schedules can take proctored tests at a time and place that works for them.

“Honorlock helps us get to the core of our mission here at Warrington: being able to offer an MBA to just about anybody. Having a proctoring service focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion made choosing Honorlock an easy fit for us.” – Naz Erenguc, University of Florida, Director of Admissions at the Warrington College of Business

8. Helps reduce test anxiety

Tests are stressful, but did you know that taking a test in a different room or even in a different seat can negatively impact performance? And with online exams, there’s added stress because test takers have technology concerns.

But in a student survey, 100% of students who interacted with a live remote proctor from Honorlock indicated that it reduced their test anxiety. 

Honorlock’s combination of AI with human proctors means test takers won’t be watched constantly during tests. Our AI monitors behavior and alerts a live proctor to review the situation if it detects any issues to determine whether to intervene or not. This way, test takers won’t be interrupted unless it’s necessary. Honorlock’s full-time remote proctoring team received training by a nationally certified counselor and educator to better support test takers during moments of assessment frustration and anxiety.

“The proctor popping in was different than I expected – in a positive way. I imagined them being more strict. I felt that the proctor was helpful and a lot less intimidating than I thought.” – Student survey quote in a post-exam interview

9. Detects voices, not sounds

If the proctoring software uses sound detection, instructors could be left reviewing flags for irrelevant sounds…

Dog barking – flag to review.

Coughing – flag to review.

Tapping pencil – flag to review.

As mentioned earlier, Honorlock’s Smart Voice Detection listens for keywords and phrases, like “OK Google” and “Hey Siri,” so you’ll only have to review what’s important.

But what if a test taker talks to themselves during the test and says a phrase that the Smart Voice Detection listens for, such as ‘ OK Google’?

This phrase would trigger Honorlock’s Smart Voice Detection, but it would also notify a live proctor to review the situation, where they would see that cheating didn’t occur, so there’s no need to intervene.

Honorlock’s online proctoring software is different by design

Our approach to proctoring is different because we know that it’s more than just catching cheating. 

Honorlock’s flexible platform positively reshapes the way tests are administered by improving the entire assessment experience, ensuring equity and access, and effectively protecting academic integrity. 

For institutions looking ahead, investing in Honorlock’s proctoring services and software is a step towards a smarter future with more opportunities to improve education.

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