By Rusty Hartley, Principal Analyst
While remote proctoring is not explicitly limited to online education, the primary driver of the market for low-stakes remote proctoring systems is the growth in postsecondary online education. Surprisingly, given the growth in online enrollments over the past 15 years, remote exam proctoring systems have yet to enter the mainstream. As discussed in Part II of this series, while some proctoring technologies for low-stakes exams are readily available, others are still under development – this is expected to continue as the industry develops to meet the needs of the market today, and evolves to meet the needs of the future.
Vendor Landscape – Young and Smart
The landscape of today’s remote exam proctoring industry includes roughly 8 – 10 vendors. They range from independently-owned companies like Kryterion, Software Secure, and ProctorU to larger companies like Tegrity, a division of McGraw Hill that offers remote proctoring services as part of a larger educational product offering. Most of these companies use webcam technology as the centerpiece of their proctoring solutions and offer a range of product versions and features to accommodate different market sectors or client needs.
As demand continues to drive new technology developments, more options will become available. More companies will move from offering higher stakes and higher margin products to offering more scalable and affordable low-stakes solutions designed specifically for today’s online postsecondary market. Vendors will differentiate themselves by adding new features or other improvements to their core product lines.
Market Context – An Enabler to Online Growth
To put this industry into context, remote proctoring will always be a “smaller piece of the pie” when compared to online learning or educational technology. An apt analogy would be to equate it with catalytic converters in cars. In the mid 1970s, based on pressure from the US EPA, car manufacturers started equipping cars with catalytic converters to help control emissions. Today, catalytic converters are used not only in cars, but in most everything that uses an internal combustion engine. While most accreditors are not yet requiring remote proctoring systems with any level of urgency, this industry displays many of the same characteristics and could follow a similar trajectory.
Growth dynamics related to remote proctoring are largely positive. Not only are online enrollments expected to continue growing in the future, but past growth in online enrollments was not supported by remote proctoring technologies – the absence of corollary growth of remote proctoring suggests that there will be some “catch-up” ball to play. The ability to serve new student demographics through online delivery channels is a driving force in the growth of online learning – adults, international students, and the military are examples. These are some of the sectors where vendors of remote proctoring solutions are concentrating their efforts, but they should by no means exclude campus-based learning, secondary education, or other forms of education in the long term.
Market Development – Introducing the Silver Bullet
Low-stakes remote exam proctoring will continue to be aligned with the growth of online learning in the coming years. New technologies and new vendors entering the market will make it more competitive – this will fuel continuous product development and innovation. Some companies’ product offerings will be strengthened through partnerships and through internal research and development; other companies will become acquisition targets as LMS providers or large publishers, for example, seek to provide complementary horizontal capabilities to their existing product lines.
Remote proctoring technologies will continue to move further away from human involvement and towards greater automation. Future vendors will offer turnkey proctoring solutions completely based on scalable technology that is nearly transparent to the user – this could be the silver bullet that can accommodate a broader range of educational models as it is less intrusive, more reliable, and ultimately more affordable than those where humans are involved.
Market Evolution – Subcontracting for NASA?
As the postsecondary market embraces low-stakes remote proctoring solutions, some of these technologies will be refined to meet the needs of other education market sectors. Virtual high schools and online corporate training are likely candidates because they face some of same issues as the postsecondary market. There are also scenarios where remote proctoring may become important to on-campus classroom environments such as attendance verification for industry licensure or federal aid purposes, or outsourcing test taking time to reserve more time for classroom learning.
Low-stakes remote exam proctoring technology may also evolve to help substantiate and validate alternative learning models in higher education – namely adaptive learning and MOOCs. Both are still business models in development, but both have the potential for significant growth (the continued influx of venture capital and private equity money is evidence of this optimism). MOOCs will be more focused on scale – technology that can accommodate large numbers of students and exams. Adaptive learning will also focus on scale but at a more intimate level as these models focus on constant assessment during the learning process. This suggests that technology refinements will be needed to adjust to the specific needs of each business model or industry sector.
Finally, remote proctoring technologies may evolve to accommodate demand in other industries. Examples include virtual time clocks for remote employees, verification of attendance for employee training or compliance purposes, and others. Biometrics like iris scanning, DNA, and other physiological characteristics may eventually play a role – given that advanced biometric technologies have typically been developed outside of education, this could prove disruptive to the existing remote proctoring industry as developers move from say, military or national security applications, to higher education. And vice versa. The future of low-stakes remote exam proctoring will be exciting to watch develop and evolve over the coming years – it will benefit both postsecondary institutions and the vendors that serve them.
Please feel free to address any questions or comments to Rusty Hartley at email@example.com.