What Is the Total Cost of Low-Cost Remote Exam Proctoring?

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With more and more exams being administered online, universities and other academic institutions must consider their options for remote proctoring carefully. Budget is always a concern, but it’s important to ask what you’re getting for the cost—and more importantly, what you might be losing. Software-only exam proctoring solutions may come with a cheaper price tag, but they often result in a larger institutional workload because they lack the security, flexibility, and accessibility needed for remote proctoring to be effective. When a remote proctoring solution is ineffective, cheating goes undeterred and undetected, leading to a series of negative ripple effects.

This article will explore how ineffective proctoring can negatively impact your institution. We’ll look at why low-cost proctoring solutions fail to adequately address cheating, and why human-led proctoring solutions may be cheaper in the long run.

Institutional Costs Associated With Ineffective Remote Exam Proctoring

When a proctoring solution does not work, cheating tends to spread like a virus. We’ve seen firsthand what can happen, with headline-making stories from the Naval Academy, Cal State LA, Harvard, and more. The negative effects can become quite serious, ranging from legal and financial costs to reputational and test-taker harm. Here are just a few of those repercussions:

Financial and legal impacts

  • Loss of accreditation
  • Loss of state or federal funding
  • Potential lawsuits from test-takers accused of cheating
  • Resources needed to replace stolen exam questions
  • Time and money spent investigating integrity incidents 

Reputational consequences

  • Decreased enrollment in program or institution
  • Negative perception of program’s validity for employment
  • Unfavorable media coverage

Test-taker harm

  • Loss of degree value if the institution loses its accreditation 
  • Loss of program for test-takers who are currently enrolled
  • Suspension, expulsion, or a black mark on their record 
  • Negative behavioral impacts such as habit-forming patterns or dishonesty acceptance

The costs of online exam proctoring are interconnected, very real, and very expensive, either in time, money, or reputation. It is possible to protect academic integrity without spending more, but a software-only proctoring solution isn’t the answer. It can cost far more than it saves.

Why Do “Low-Cost” Remote Exam Proctoring Solutions Fail to Address Test Cheating?

Most low-cost remote proctoring solutions rely solely on software to monitor remote exam sessions. This allows proctoring providers to keep their costs low by hiring fewer proctors. In a software-only proctoring solution, the platform uses algorithms or artificial intelligence (AI) to flag and report suspicious behavior without human oversight into how accurate those flags may be.

Many fully automated proctoring solutions have emerged in recent years claiming to effectively use only software to flag cheating behavior. That claim is simply false. Here are a few reasons why.

Software-Only Solutions Rely Exclusively on Computer Algorithms or AI, Leading to False Negatives and False Positives

False negatives in software-only solutions occur because a machine can’t make a distinction between suspicious behavior and unexpected behavior. For example, a student using a screen reader to take an exam may not look at the computer screen. AI might flag this behavior as potential cheating, rather than an accessibility issue.

Recently, researchers at a Netherlands university have scientifically proven the ineffectiveness of these systems. Their study found that no students who were instructed to cheat on an exam were flagged by a software-only proctoring system, and several students who did not cheat were flagged for suspicious behavior. This led to a high percentage of false negatives and “disastrous” system sensitivity.

If Your Proctoring Vendor Isn’t Reviewing Sessions, That Burden Falls on Institution Resources

The more automated a proctoring solution is, the more effort and resources are required from faculty or administrators.

To combat negative impacts, some software-only proctoring providers offer “add-on” services that require an additional fee for human review. It’s a little like booking a plane ticket with a “no frills” airline. While the base cost of the ticket itself appears inexpensive, baggage, seat assignments, upgrades, snacks, and even water cost extra. Similarly, software-only solutions offer the bare minimum for an affordable cost but charge extra for higher security or professional supervision. Because of this, your institution may ultimately either pay more money for proctoring or lose precious time and resources requiring their instructors and professors to perform a human review instead. The human cost of low-cost proctoring solutions can vastly outweigh the savings, especially if the burden of review falls on faculty members, increasing their workload and consuming valuable time.

Properly reviewing sessions takes time—a lot of time—that institution faculty and administrators often don’t have. How much time? Even Meazure Learning’s trained, professional proctors have to spend an average of 47 minutes reviewing each session, investigating potential incidents, and drafting the necessary reports. That can add up to a lot of time and effort on your part. That’s why we include it as a part of all our proctoring services. We know what happens when sessions are not reviewed, and we aim to minimize those negative effects.

Without Human Review and Validation, Your Exam Is Vulnerable to Cheating and Security Threats

Software-only solutions ultimately fail for one reason: Even the most advanced AI is currently no replacement for human eyes and a critical brain. Adding an element of human review to your exam process is invaluable to the success and reputation of your exam. Given AI’s poor track record of identifying cheating as it happens, a human proctor’s analysis can provide a level of security that fully automated systems cannot.

In addition to falsely flagging test-taker behavior and missing signs of actual cheating, software-only systems leave your exam open to a plethora of security concerns. Human proctors can spot signs of test-takers who may be recording questions to sell to other test-takers or using a remote proxy to take the exam. These possible negative outcomes make human review of all exam sessions vital to ensure their fairness and validity.

While no exam system is completely free of attempted cheating or exam compromise, the addition of a human proctor can prevent many of these instances—sometimes by their mere presence—filling in holes in your exam integrity that software simply cannot.


Low-cost and software-only proctoring solutions have numerous hidden costs, from financial to reputational, and preventing those costs has never been more important to safeguarding your institution and academic integrity. While software-only solutions are priced attractively, the costs associated with using them are innumerable. Perhaps someday AI will catch up, but for now, the human element is essential to provide a fair, equitable, and secure exam that is protected against devaluation.

To find out more about human-led, tech-empowered solutions and how to implement them ethically, read our article on the 5 Principles of Ethical Online Exam Proctoring.