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Online surveillance and invigilation

Online surveillance at the University of Groningen is the live digital tracking of students’s behavior while they are sitting an online exam. The starting point is to digitally replicate the situation of an on-campus exam in the exam hall. Invigilators monitor students and are available for questions. An exam with online surveillance is possible on a limited number of platforms (currently Blackboard Collaborate and Google Meet). Faculties cannot deviate from this. Online surveillance is intended as an additional measure for online examination where there is a high risk of cheating. Here we want to answer the most important questions regarding online surveillance.


Before deciding on online examination combined with online surveillance/invigilation, please consider alternative test forms. There are various solutions for this which you can learn about on our didactics page.

Before deciding on online examination combined with online surveillance/invigilation, please check if online surveillance is permitted using the questions below.

For more information about how to use Blackboard Collaborate or Google Enterprise for online surveillance/invigilation, please take a look at our tools page.

When is online surveillance permitted to use?

Before deciding on online examination combined with online surveillance/invigilation, please check if online surveillance is permitted using the questions below.

 When is online surveillance permitted?
  • It is not possible to have all students take the exam at one physical location in a fixed time block. Such a situation occurred, for example, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dutch government has laid down rules that prohibit meetings of large groups. Another example would be the unavailability of exam rooms due to emergencies, such as a fire.

  • The exam cannot be converted or converted sufficiently to an alternative form.The examiner examines whether it is possible to complete a course unit by passing a remote examwhere online surveillance is not required. This is most often done by converting an exam into a variant where the possibility to commit cheating is limited or not meaningful.

  • Serious practical objections. In some cases, the exam could be converted in theory without taking away from the learning objectives of the course unit, but the faculty could encounter other serious objections where conducting large-scale oral exams or open-book exams is substantially more labour-intensive for examiners.

  • Exceptions: when online surveillance is of particular importance to the student. An example is a student who has a functional impairment and therefore cannot take the exam on location.

 Who decides whether online surveillance can be used?

The choice to use online surveillance is made by the faculty and is a collaboration between the faculty board, the director of education, programme directors and boards of examiners:

  1. The faculty’s programme-directors determine the need for online surveillance among examiners.

  2. This inventory will be submitted to the board(s) of examiners. The Board of Examiners determines whether the learning outcomes of the degree programme can still be achieved with an online exam and also advises on the need for online surveillance.

  3. The faculty board will then decide on the use of online surveillance, in accordance with the institution-wide frameworks and guidelines.

The responsibility for the implementation of the examination and online surveillance lies with the faculties. This includes organising and instructing invigilators, teachers and students.
CIT/ESI provides information via edusupport and technical support for the use of Blackboard Collaborate. Team Assessment Support is available for setting up a digital exam and advising on examination forms.

To obtain a license for Google Enterprise, please contact Nestorsupport.

Keep in mind CIT-ESI only provides a license and does not provide technical support for Google Enterprise. 

 When to use online surveillance?

Online surveillance is intended as an extra measure and must be well motivated. Alternative examination methods and didactic solutions for which online surveillance is not necessary must be thoroughly investigated. The use of online surveillance is labour-intensive and requires a lot of organization, which must be taken into account in the motivation for online surveillance. Online surveillance is allowed if the quality of the exam and the identification of students is not sufficiently guaranteed otherwise. Online surveillance can also be used for students who cannot be physically present for an on-campus exam. Examination should always be aligned to the learning objectives and should drive study behavior and the learning process. Examiners must consult their board of examiners in advance about the modification of any exam.

  The main points of interest during online surveillance
  •  The exam will take place in the examination environment in Nestor, the online surveillance in another environment is accessible from Nestor.

  • The online surveillance is conducted live (in real-time): audio-visual images of students are not stored and no online proctoring software or artificial intelligence may be used.

  • Only one camera should be used to create images of (the room of) the student. The student’s room must be well lit and tidy. The student should be alone. There must be no resources and tools at the student’s work station that are not required for the exam (clean desk).

  • Students must be well informed of the surveillance. Instructing students and verifying their

    identity takes time and is intensive. During the verification, students are allowed to see the data on another person’s student card.

 Irregularities and cheating

Using online surveillance does not completely prevent cheating. The best way to reduce risks is still to combine alternative exam forms and questions, to customize exams as much as possible and to use tools and resources to detect cheating and plagiarism. Creating more awareness among students (such as through the Student Pledge) and providing information also contributes to this. The identification of irregularities alone is insufficient to detect cheating. The Updated framework for online exams (January 2021), shared with Faculty Boards and Boards of Examiners, contains a framework for the possible justification, assessment and sanctioning of suspected cheating. ESI’s central online knowledge platform provides more information on didactic considerations, concrete examples of alternatives and other cheating prevention tools and resources.

 What information may be used to identify the student?

Faculties can take measures to verify that a student is taking the exam. A student is required to show proof of identification on the basis of the WHW. The student number and password can be used for this purpose. If additional security regarding identity is required, students may be asked to show their student card. Students are allowed to see the data on another student card.

 Which behavior-tracking techniques can be used?

Within the University of Groningen, limited use can be made of techniques for monitoring the students’ behavior. Viewing video material showing the student and their workplace by invigilators is permitted. Based on the image and sound, they can assess whether there are any irregularities. They will do so during the exam. Students can therefore be required to switch on their camera and microphone during the exam. Invigilators are trained by the faculties so that their observations have value and they operate in accordance with this guideline. It is also possible to analyse exam responses, for example on plagiarism, provided that the facilities and support of ESI are used for this purpose. The GDPR does not allow the following techniques:

  • Recording keystrokes.

  • Techniques that use eye tracking, techniques that record breathing and/or techniques that analyse the students’ stress levels.

For the benefit and privacy of the students and because of their limited effectiveness, the following techniques are not permitted:

  • The use of more than one camera to create images of the student or the room in which they are working.

  • The use of artificial intelligence to analyse video images, sound and screen recordings.

  • Recording images and sound.

 How is the protection of student privacy arranged?

Online surveillance uses (sensitive) personal data of students.The students’ audio-visual material is not recorded in the context of online surveillance. The data collected automatically using the online examination and online surveillance application(s), such as log files, are stored in a central data storage facility managed by ESI. More information about usage goals, retention periods and the basis for this can be found in the privacy statement. The privacy statement also describes the rights of the student according to the GDPR. Prior to the deployment of online surveillance, the University of Groningen performed a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA). This documents the risks of online surveillance for the protection of the privacy of students and the measures that have been taken to mitigate those risks. The DPIA has been assessed by the Dutch Data Protection Authority. The Authority does not see a high risk for students’ privacy when all measures are applied. If students have any questions about the processing of their personal data, they can report to the ABJZ’s central privacy office at privacy@rug.nl.


Last modified: 19 November 12:07 pm
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