Protecting academic integrity has always been complex. But within the four walls of a classroom, it’s often relatively simple — professors can watch over students as they work, making sure phones remain in pockets and answers aren’t whispered between desks.
But in 2020, the classroom as we knew it disappeared; overnight, college campuses emptied of students, teachers, and staff to ensure they remained safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote learning and managing academic integrity in the virtual world weren’t entirely new concerns, but now higher education had to tackle them at an unprecedented scale.
Thankfully, Honorlock was ready with a solution that was capable of growing to meet that demand without sacrificing the best possible experience. Their platform pairs Twilio Programmable Video with proprietary AI to offer an innovative, efficient virtual proctoring experience that integrates seamlessly with popular learning management systems like Canvas and Blackboard.
Best of all, it’s built with user’s needs in mind: instructors can toggle proctoring on and off for different assessments, and students simply activate a browser extension that runs in the background while they work. Thanks to its incredible effectiveness and ease of use, 2020 saw Honorlock’s Twilio-integrated solution grow in usage by an astounding 33 times.
Honorlock isn’t the only online proctoring solution on the market, but what sets them apart is the unique way their platform blends automation and live proctoring to create an agile, intelligent strategy for student monitoring.
“We have competitors that use only AI, which creates a lot of noise in terms of when an instructor goes to review it,” said Andy Hernandez, Honorlock’s senior architect, product and software. “On the other side, we have competitors that have a set number of proctors who literally sit there and watch you take your entire exam, which creates stress for students and limits capacity.”
Instead of defaulting to one of these methods, Honorlock’s team opted to build something unique: “We use AI to inform the proctors of which session they should be jumping in on or not,” Hernandez explained. If the AI catches behavioral red flags in the stream as it’s captured by Twilio Video, proctors can then enter the exam on an on-call basis. Doing so preserves a live, human perspective as an integral part of the proctoring experience.
Prior to partnering with Twilio, Honorlock already had a video provider, but their solution couldn’t scale quickly enough to the team’s expectations. They switched in 2019, which turned out to be perfect timing. “Honestly,” Hernandez said, “if we hadn't moved to Twilio when we did, we would not have been able to get through COVID-19 at all.”
That’s because as soon as lockdowns across the U.S. began, Honorlock’s user base grew larger than ever before with usage growth of ten times just between January and April. “It was the highest that we had ever imagined,” Hernandez said. With that kind of growth, technical complications are inevitable, especially when you’re serving students across the country whose devices and network quality vary.
Part of what allowed them to scale quickly even in the face of this complex challenge was Twilio's Network Quality API, which Honorlock uses to monitor the network quality of test takers. Based on feedback gained from the data, they can automatically implement backup protocols when network quality is low. This lets them disconnect from live video as needed and instead capture still images, and to connect students to live support agents right as they need them—ensuring any student, anywhere in the country, can make it through their exams.
If we hadn't moved to Twilio when we did, we would not have been able to get through COVID-19 at all.
A human perspective is crucial to the compassionate, student-success-driven approach Honorlock provides. According to Tess Mitchell, senior vice president of marketing at Honorlock, a key piece of what sets them apart is the desire to do more than simply prevent and catch cheating, but to improve the overall exam process for students and faculty alike.
In the case of faculty, Honorlock’s platform saves critical time—something educators are always in need of. The automated report generated after a student takes an exam includes a direct link to the video captured of students in the event that further review might be needed, all powered by Twilio Video’s recording and composition features. “Everything is designed to shorten the burden on the faculty member,” Mitchell explained.
The same applies to the impact Honorlock wants to have on students: “Students already have so much anxiety about their exams,” Mitchell explained. “What if my dog barks? What if my child runs in while I'm in the middle of an exam? Am I going to get flagged as cheating?”
Those situations are inevitable amidst our new normal, where the home has become the de facto classroom, workplace, doctor’s office, and more. Being watched by a silent proctor, whether automated or human, can quickly worsen those anxieties. Rather than resisting that reality, Honorlock’s solution adapts to it.
“It’s a seamless experience for most students. They log into their LMS to take their exam and are directed to install our Chrome extension,,” Mitchell explained. “From that point forward, it's just their exam as usual. We're taking care of all the proctoring and reporting information back to instructors.” That seamlessness has helped set Honorlock apart as a more approachable, user-friendly platform.
Twilio Video APIs served as the reliable infrastructure for Honorlock to build the custom, browser-based interface that enables them to meet their users’ needs so effectively. “The SDKs allowed us to think outside the box and not have to worry about how things were built under the hood,” Hernandez said. “We had enough flexibility to get to where we needed and enough robustness that we could trust what was there."
The Honorlock team feels confident that the solution they’ve built with Twilio will long outlast the uptick in remote learning brought about by the pandemic.
“Even before the pandemic,” Mitchell said, “online learning was growing at a higher rate than in-person college admissions.” That trajectory spells a bright future for virtual tools that can not only replace but improve traditionally in-person experiences.
“The convenience of online learning isn’t going away,” Mitchell said. “We think it's going to increase.”
With the flexibility and customization of Twilio Video, Honorlock will be ready to meet whatever challenges come next.