Boston is known for all things education and edtech. But just a half-hour west of the city is one of our best-kept secrets in this space: Examity.
For two years now, Examity has been working out of Natick, providing online proctoring solutions to universities and enterprises. The startup has been steadily growing over that time – and it’s only expected to take off from here, as online testing becomes a regular part of education.
How the idea for test integrity came about
Michael London, Examity’s Founding CEO, has been dealing with edtech startups for the majority of his professional career, giving plenty of fodder for Examity.
“My first education startup was College Coach, which helped students select, apply and get financial aid to colleges. It was sold to a publicly traded Boston-based company, Bright Horizons. While I was there, I noticed there was something not quite right about the way college and financial aid applications were done. That was my first data point that there may be a need there.”
That inkling was further validated when London founded the Bloomberg Institute, a venture business that developed a global standardized test that was used in more than 70 countries. The need to ensure a fair testing environment for all students became even more apparent, prompting Examity and its online proctoring services.
Proctoring based on preferences
Examity integrates with institutions’ learning management and test delivery systems, including Moodle and Blackboard, so students can take tests through the online portals they normally use for school.
The people providing the tests – specific professors, academic departments or assessment directors – are able to select the level of proctoring they want. They can choose to provide online tests that are fully automated, ones that have human proctors watching and listening to students via webcam as they take test or ones that are recorded and spot-checked.
“The preferences depend on how they feel,” London explained.
There is, however, an authentication process that goes down with every Examity test. With online test-taking, one of the biggest concerns is that the person taking a test is really the person who is supposed to be doing so. Test-takers are IDed, have to answer a challenge question and need to provide a biometric signature.
Why proctoring is taking off online
The concept of a person tentatively watching students take tests through a webcam can come off as a little creepy. But London expressed that Examity provides a more pleasant testing experience than those found at traditional centers.
“It’s funny because the creepy word used to come up when we first started out,” he said. “At test centers, I found it creepier that they frisked me and made me go through a metal detector. So what’s the alternative if you want to level the playing field and make it fair?”
If anything, students have enjoyed their time taking proctored online tests with Examity. Proctors double as tech support for test-takers, answering questions that students normally wouldn’t receive help on.
“People almost like being proctored online. We’re finding it to be a new phenomenon,” London explained.
To demonstrate the phenomenal acceptance of online proctoring is Examity’s revenue. According to the company’s spokesperson, it’s experienced year over year growth, going from increased $1 million in 2014 to $3 million last year. This year, Examity is projecting to bring in $10 million, showing how demand for safe, reliable testing environments online is climbing. London shed more light, saying:
Our growth isn’t happening by mistake. For profit schools have managed to make school work online even years back and they created a foundation for traditional universities to join in the trend. I’m on the Board at Babson and even though it’s not looking to go online, there are still hybrid courses. It’s something that’s happening at every school, making them figure out what it means to go online. What do you gain? Flexibility. But what do they have to lose? Most universities are concerned about their reputation.
Up until this point, Examity has been focused on testing for individual institutions and enterprises, working with local schools like Boston University and Northeastern. But it has a long-term goal: standardized tests. Taking an online proctoring approach to tests like the GMATs, GREs or SATs could make the testing experience safe, fair and relatively painless.
Although that’s still in the works, Examity has already done work in the standardized testing arena. From the very beginning, the startup has been working with the language-learning venture Duolingo, proctoring its certificate tests. So the other exams may be soon to follow.