UoPeople and the ProctorU Exam

J. Francois Barnard – 31 October 2019

I have just completed my three exams for term 1 of the 2019/20 academic year, and one of them was a "proctored" exam. If you are new to this terminology, a proctored exam is basically an exam you write under the supervision of a neutral person (the proctor) who ensures the identity of the test taker and the integrity of the test-taking environment.

study009Of the 40 courses you take for a Bachelor's degree, eleven should be proctored courses. The academic catalogue clearly identifies which courses are proctored. Most of them are among the required courses, but you might have to add one or two from your elective courses, too.

When registering for a course on the UoPeople website, you are required to report the name and details of the proctor you are using. This can be a priest, padre, police officer… or any neutral person who will be willing to supervise you on your test date. You are not allowed to compensate this person, and you should not be intimately acquainted with them at all.

The alternative is to use the ProctorU services online at a cost. Some UoPeople students cannot afford their assessment fees, let alone ProctorU's costs. This service is not for them.

For those who can afford it, I would think it is an excellent option and not that expensive. An exam of 15 minutes to 60 minutes costs $14, and for 60 minutes or more, it costs $17.50. You get longer exams from other institutions, but I have not encountered anything longer than 2 hours at UoPeople.

At the beginning of the term, you can go to ProctorU's website and schedule the exam. Exam days are running from Thursday to Sunday (4 days) in Week 9 of the term. It is best to prepare it early during those four days. If something goes wrong - like a break in internet service or the local criminals stealing the power cables - you have more than enough time to make alternative plans.

Make sure that you log into the ProctorU website a few days ahead of your scheduled exam. They have an option to test your computer equipment. Your computer should have a built-in or USB camera. The test will check

  • if the camera is working;
  • if the microphone is working;
  • if Adobe Flash is installed and running;
  • if your computer has a compatible operating system;
  • if your internet bandwidth can handle the online traffic required for the proctored exam.

Please take note that Adobe Flash will reach its end-of-life somewhere towards the end of 2020, I was told. By then, ProctorU should have alternative software in place to take that function over. But that is not your problem.

My proctored exam was scheduled for 19:00 tonight. The ProctorU website counted the time down to the exact moment, and a "Start Session" button appeared. I clicked on it and was prompted to follow a few steps. The camera takes a picture of your face, and you have to keep it close enough to fit the space allowed for it.

The most important is to have a photo taken of your "photo identity document."

It is here that you can encounter a dismal failure if you do not have the correct document ready. NOBODY at UoPeople and NOBODY at ProctorU will tell you the following information. That is why I am doing this now. I have paid a substantial price for not having an accepted ID document at TOEFL.

Allow me to tell you the story:

It was before I registered at UoPeople, and I was told that a prerequisite was to prove my English proficiency first. I was not aware that you could take the English Composition 1 course. So, I registered at TOEFL and learned that there was an exam centre in Rosebank, Johannesburg. The registration fee was $150. Multiply that by about 13 (the exchange rate in 2017), and you get an amount in South African Rand, which could have filled your petrol tank up almost three times!

I took the Gautrain to Rosebank one Saturday morning and walked from the station to the exam centre. I presented my South African ID document and was told that they did not accept it.

I have had a South African ID document from 1979 and have always carried it with me. Years ago, your firearm license, driver's license, and marriage certificate were pasted into this booklet. That changed later on. But never in my life was I told that my official South African ID document was not acceptable.

A TOEFL exam centre based in Johannesburg was quick to take my $150 (non-refundable) but did not bother to tell me that a South African ID is not acceptable. What??? A small company dares to tell a sovereign country that its official identification documentation is "unacceptable"!

The reason they claim it is "unacceptable" is because it does not have an expiry date printed on it.

"Why did you not bring your passport?" she dared to ask as if every citizen has a valid passport. My old passport had already expired. Millions of South Africans do not travel and do not have any reason to have a passport.

"Do you have a valid driver's license?" she asked. Yes, I had a temporary one in my car at the Hatfield station in Pretoria because South Africa's eNatis system could not print mine in time when I applied for a replacement license after the previous one expired.

I never wrote that exam. I lost $150 in a non-refundable exam fee. I lost train fares and time. I lost more than what I could afford to lose at the time.

So, forget about TOEFL. They suck. UoPeople allows you to take a course called ENGL 0101 English Composition 1. Pass that with an average of 73% or higher, and your English proficiency is proven.

For this same reason, do not even try to give ProctorU your ID document as a photo identification if it does not have an expiration date printed on it. With my first proctored exam, they accepted my driver's license. But a few months later, the internet connection was slow, and they could not read the tiny characters of my name and the expiry date. Fortunately, I had my passport renewed by then and could use that. Since then, I have been using my passport.

Once your identification has been recorded, you will be notified that your camera is now working and they are recording you. You will be prompted to download a program (some variant of LogMeIn Hamachi) and allow the proctor to take control of your mouse and keyboard. The same as with AnyDesk and TeamViewer. They will check your computer environment to ensure you cannot record your exam session and sell it to your peers – or cheat in any other way.

They also ask you to show them the room you are in. You turn your computer around and point the camera to the four walls surrounding you so that they can see you do not have cheat notes stuck to the wall, ceiling, floor, or anywhere else.

During two sessions before, they asked me to hold a CD in front of the camera so that they could check the perimeter of my computer screen for any PostIt Notes stuck to it. Another time, I had to hold my cell phone with its reverse camera so that they could examine my computer's exterior.

Once everything was checked, I had to go to the UoPeople Moodle server and click on "Attempt Quiz," and the proctor entered a secret code emailed to them from UoPeople. My exam clock started ticking, and I was clicking.

As with the weekly quizzes, the exams also consist of multiple-choice questions. Once I finished the exam, I submitted it, disconnected the session from ProctorU, and opened a survey. I filled it out and checked my marks. It's not 100%, but it's not too bad either.