Capacity Strengthening / CapDev / ILRI / Research

Using online proctoring for eLearning courses at ILRI

What if you could be guaranteed that participants would come to your workshop having already mastered the basic content knowledge of your topic area? Think about the possibilities! You would be free to challenge them to apply that knowledge to a range of professional problem scenarios. After all, learning theory tells us that good learning is contextual. Think of the invigorating discussions that would unfold.

Instead, the current status quo has you spending the first few days of valuable face-to-face time lecturing participants about content with which many of them are already familiar, at least to some extent.

Workshops attended by informed professionals ready to explore how new knowledge and technologies can be applied in their own professional contexts. This is the scenario that ILRI’s capacity development unit is trying to make a reality by creating online modules to cover basic knowledge objectives. The intent is that participants will go through the online modules, do the online quizzes and come prepared. But, hey, I hear you asking, what is the difference between this and just sending out advanced reading materials to our workshop participants? We always send them papers to read in advance but we know that most of them won’t read them.

Of course, online modules have the advantage of including quizzes and with ILRI’s learning portal, administrators can check how participants perform on quizzes and even which wrong answers they selected. However, when there are high stakes, such as the possibility of being barred from attending a workshop if one fails the quiz, our experience, sadly, is that cheating will occur.

The answer? Online proctoring!

In normal university settings, a proctor is a supervisor or monitor who invigilates exams. With eLearning, an online proctor is a service that ensures that online test takers are not cheating. This is done by humans, using the technology on the test-takers’ laptops (camera, microphone etc.) and using specialized software that allows proctors to see the test-takers’ screen and the room where they are sitting the test. More information.

In mid-2016, ILRI’s capacity development unit will use the services of ProctorU to test the extent to which partner organisations (LCPs) in the mNutrition project have mastered online content before committing its trainers to running in-country workshops. As these partners are located in Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Kenya, online proctoring, at a cost of between $17-$25 per test, is a much more cost-effective option than flying in trainers to personally invigilate the exam.

Once all local content provider representatives have been certified as having mastered the knowledge objectives of the course, trainers will be free to work with them on applying this knowledge to the work they will actually do, thus ensuring a higher quality product for the client. [ILRI is the implementation partner responsible for capacity development in the mNutrition project, funded by DFID and managed by CABI. Other partners include GSMA, Oxfam, GAIN, and the British Medical Journal].

Contributed by Deborah Wyburn

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