When it comes to securing your exam, there are many layers to consider. One layer that online testing providers are rediscovering as online testing technology advances is the use of secure browsers. Secure browsers offer an additional layer of protection for the testing environment as well as your test-takers’ data. The right secure browser can improve the testing experience, integrating more easily with your exam delivery system and streamlining the process for your test-takers.
In this article, we’ll talk about what a secure browser is and how it functions. We’ll also cover what problems it can help solve for your exam program.
What Is a Secure Browser?
Secure exam browsers work by locking down some of the functionality of a test-taker’s computer. This helps protect exam integrity from many security threats, such as content theft, collusion, the use of unpermitted resources, and even proxy testing. The browser does this by restricting computer access to certain functions, processes, programs, apps, and files. In-person test centers have been using secure browsers for decades, but using them in conjunction with a remote proctoring solution is still fairly new.
There are many advantages to using a software application rather than a browser extension. For one thing, a dedicated application gives exam owners greater control over what functions, settings, or applications they choose to lock down and more flexibility in what they can allow. This flexibility benefits test-takers as well, making their exam experience smoother and less frustrating.
“With a secure browser, you have full control over your test-takers’ online exam experience. No more leaving the user experience in the hands of a third party.”Bobby Middleton, Vice President of Product Management, Meazure Learning
Secure exam browsers operate differently than other methods of “locking down” or securing a virtual environment. A secure browser for online testing is a separate software application rather than a browser extension or built-in tool within an existing delivery platform. These options have worked in the past, but as technology moves forward, so must the testing industry. Secure browsers are part of the evolution of test security.
The Importance of a Secure Browser for Online Testing
With instances of cheating on the rise, safeguarding your exam integrity is vital. Exam content exposed by a cheating ring or collusion can be costly to replace, both in terms of finance and reputation. The beauty of a secure browser is that it provides a consistent technological solution that can be applied either in test centers or online, with or without a proctor.
Using a Secure Browser for Proctored Exams
When administering a proctored exam, a secure browser provides additional technology-based security. You may already be using a proctor to mitigate security risks, but adding a secure browser as part of a comprehensive exam security plan enhances your ability to mitigate those risks. Whether it’s countering remote access, restricting access to unpermitted resources, or preventing the use of virtual machines, a secure browser has the ability to spot technology patterns or signs of misconduct that a proctor may never see on screen.
When used in combination with proctoring, a secure browser further enhances the security of the test and protects its overall integrity.
Using a Secure Browser for Unproctored Exams
In an unproctored exam, using a secure browser to maintain test security is even more important than in a proctored exam. If you don’t use a proctor or a secure browser, your exam is completely unprotected from test-taker misconduct. With no mechanism to limit test-taker browsing capabilities, test-takers can easily access unpermitted resources or materials. If there’s no ability to lock down certain computer functionality, the exam is vulnerable to content theft, collusion, proxy testing, and other threats to exam integrity. While that may be acceptable for some low-stakes assignments or quizzes, mid- or high-stakes assessments intended to truly gauge a test-taker’s competence in a given subject should take care to prevent those threats.
What Problems Does a Secure Browser for Online Testing Solve?
We’ve looked at the importance of a secure browser for online testing and how your program might be vulnerable without one. Now it’s time to ask what a secure browser can actually do for your exam program. A secure browser can’t solve all your security issues in one fell swoop. It can, however, help your program in 3 major areas.
Problem #1: Mitigating Exam Misconduct
As part of a comprehensive approach to exam security, a secure browser adds an additional layer. Secure browser applications provide a greater ability to prevent certain computer functions during an exam than browser extensions do. They can shut off the keyboard copy and paste shortcuts, screenshot function, and printing function to help prevent content theft. They can also lock down the browser window size controls, restrict the ability to open new browser tabs or other computer programs, and implement a URL allowlist to reduce instances of test-takers accessing unpermitted resources during an exam.
Perhaps the most impactful way that a secure browser can prevent exam misconduct is by detecting and preventing the use of virtual machines and remote access. Both of these are common methods used in proxy testing—where someone else remotely logs into a test-taker’s computer and takes the exam for them.
All these measures can minimize a test-taker’s ability to gain an unfair advantage over their peers. Screen recording and streaming and process blocklisting add even more layers of security to protect your exam from potential misconduct.
Problem #2: Streamlining the Test-Taker Experience
When compared to solutions that use browser extensions, the use of a secure browser can simplify the experience for test-takers by limiting the possible points of friction commonly caused by technology.
With a browser extension, test-takers must work with both a third-party browser and an extension, doubling the sources to support and troubleshoot. When solutions allow test-takers a choice in which browser (and browser extension) they use—like Chrome and Firefox—the possible points of friction are quadrupled. If something goes wrong, it may not be clear where to go for help. With a secure browser, the test-taker and the vendor have only one application to troubleshoot if a technology issue arrises.
With all their exam software in one location, test-takers’ potential workflows are consolidated, making it easier to provide support when needed. It requires only one launch process, which can reduce the test-taker’s pre-exam anxiety. When using a browser that is designed specifically for exam delivery, you reduce web-related distractions like pop-up ads or notifications, minimizing the potential for interruptions and unnecessary anxiety for the test-taker on exam day.
Problem #3: Securing Sensitive Data
Protecting both your exam material and your test-takers’ personal data is of utmost importance in exam administration. A secure browser for online testing frees your program from dependence on third-party browser companies like Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, or Apple. This gives you more control over your security measures. It also means you limit access to your exam data and your test-takers’ personal data, rather than exposing it to potential misuse by a third party.
In the ever-evolving world of test security, secure browsers are an added layer that can help safeguard your exam program and your test-takers’ data. The right secure browser can even help alleviate some test-taker anxiety and smooth out the exam process, giving them a more streamlined, less frustrating experience.
To learn more about Meazure Learning’s secure browser, visit our Guardian Browser page.