The influence of proctored testing in distance learning mathematics courses



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Distance learning has found a permanent place in higher education, with more colleges and universities embracing online courses as a valid method of course delivery. While there are obvious benefits for students, distance learning presents significant challenges for institutions. One such challenge is the perception academic integrity is too easily compromised on unsupervised online examinations. Proctoring is the ideal way to monitor students’ conduct on examinations; however, researchers have devoted little time to examining proctored test environments. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to examine the influence of proctored testing on students’ test performance and test anxiety in distance learning mathematics courses. The study compared survey and examination results from 263 students in distance learning College Algebra and Business Calculus courses in a community college in Texas. Quantitative analysis revealed students performed significantly better and experienced significantly less test anxiety in an unproctored test environment; however, there were no significant differences in test anxiety reported at the beginning of the semester and related to a proctored test environment. Qualitative analysis of course discussion boards revealed factors of students’ test anxiety related to time, physical environment, and test format. While unproctored testing should be used when possible to lessen test anxiety and improve test performance, these findings indicate it is acceptable for institutions to enforce proctored testing on high stakes examinations to ensure academic integrity.



Distance learning, Higher education, Mathematics, Online courses, Proctored testing, Test anxiety, Unproctored testing