What happens when your world changes in an instant?

Businesses across all industries were faced with that question when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We were no different. Now, we’re offering our perspective on our experience over the course of the pandemic and what we believe is coming next.  

 

While we initially hoped the dust would settle after May, we are clearly still in an early stages of determining what the new post-secondary educational model may look like. As a technology and service provider to colleges, universities, and private organizations around the globe, we aspire to be both students of the new normal and thought leaders in charting a path forward. So, here goes. 

 

We are offering two webinar time slots where we will expand on the topic areas below, offer Q&A, and more. Please fill out the form on this page to save your seat. 👉

 

Option 1: Wednesday, August 12th from 12 – 1 pm eastern time.

Option 2: Thursday, August 13th from 2 – 3 pm eastern time.

Save Your Seat!

What was our posture and point of view pre-COVID-19?

Some foundational elements of our business model were already in place — things like end-user (test taker) support policies and procedures, system uptime and maintenance protocols, processes for responding to inquiries, training and on-boarding new clients. However, like many other organizations, we have clients that are seasonal, asynchronous, or very systematic in their use of our proctoring platform. For example, midterms and finals generally follow the same schedule each year, with the exception of some “mini-mesters” or summer programs.

What was it like to handle the initial wave of inquiries while still facing uncertainty about the future and how long the impacts of COVID-19 would last?

We first started to notice potential impacts in February due to some of our overseas clients indicating difficulties in their geographical area. Imagine being in Australia, for example. After dealing with seasonal wildfires and being geographically close to Asia, these clients then started seeing impacts of COVID-19 before it hit our North American partners. We determined it was worth making a statement on April 7, after seeing about 30 days of heightened activities across all areas of our business. 

 

When the pandemic finally hit the U.S., it was a lot of long days and nights — and a lot more coffee than normal. The hardest part was being away from our families and missing our children’s bedtimes during the first few weeks. One day I stopped to count and I had 16 back-to-back zoom meetings with existing clients or potential new clients in the near-empty office building that we work from. This is not a woe-is-me (or us) situation. We were built for this, and it was time to dig in and help anywhere we could.

proctorfrees-biggest-fan
Figure 1. One of our biggest fans who’s bedtime was missed frequently during the initial peak in March-April 2020. Let us all not forget the amazing support networks we have at home.

What was our immediate response and focus? Did it matter or help?

We’re not public relations or marketing experts and never intend to be, but we do believe what you say and how you say it matters. Early on, we looked for the most authentic and direct way to touch base with our clients. Additionally, we recorded a short video message and sent it to all of our existing clients that week to let them know we were prepared to scale accordingly. We wanted them to know we cared about them (and their end-users/candidates/test takers) as human beings, and we would do whatever was possible to support them, up to and including reducing our fees and even waving them in some cases.

How did we manage our communications in the midst of COVID-19?

We have a general posture as an organization that everyone, no matter who they are, affiliated with an existing partner or not, should receive a response, acknowledgment, or answer to a question within 24 hours or less. The COVID-19 surge was no different. During March and April, we were receiving an amount of inbound inquiries that eclipsed any prior volume in the close-to-a-decade history of our company. A portion of this was due to other service providers in our industry that follow different business models experiencing service interruptions. The other driver was organic interest due to the closure of campus facilities, travel restrictions, and the understanding that MUCH more online and blended learning was about to occur. Our goal was to quickly understand, be honest, and help those we could help the most, the fastest.

Did you have to upgrade your system in any way?

We immediately invested in more DevOps because we wanted to know as far in advance as possible if any one aspect of our platform was breathing too heavily. Thankfully, there were no issues, but this did prompt us to elevate our posture. We now have more tools in place to react if users experience technical issues. This level of detail and transparency within an organization is critical.

What lessons have we learned so far? Has anything changed?

Yes. A year’s worth of learning occurred within 60 to 90 days. Focusing on simple foundational questions — such as, “Have you used proctoring before in your school or organization?” or “Do different departments or elements of your organization all login to the same Learning Management System (LMS)?”.— helps us understand your process and your desired end-state. This is important to understand because proctoring may not be the only new thing or change occurring for someone seeking our services. The wider context helps with offering the right solution and ensuring successful training and on-boarding occurs. Training can also help increase the likelihood of a successful roll-out of proctoring in any organization.

What do we see for the future of our space?

Transparency. People are understandably curious about the companies and organizations they interact with, especially when there is an exchange of currency or information. We recognize that sitting between test takers and their exams naturally puts us in an adversarial relationship with our end users. We don’t hide from this but rather work to over-communicate, explain, and design transparency into our processes. We want to be involved in the successful delivery of education, not add to any test anxiety. Answering questions quickly and having clear policies published is an easy way to start this conversation.

Industry-created guidelines and generally accepted standards. We are honored to be a part of a volunteer committee to help draft an upcoming set of standards that are being jointly developed under the leadership and guidance of the Association of Test Professionals (ATP) and the National College Testing Association (NCTA). More to follow on that, but you can learn more about these efforts here: https://www.testpublishers.org/joint-standards-for-online-proctoring

Simplicity. Design and user experience matters, and education technology players need to continue to improve their experience so as to not be detrimental to the educational goals and pedagogical process that existed before them. Your platform needs to be simple to use for ALL user roles and stakeholders.

Information and feedback loops will get better and faster. Famous fighter pilot Colonel John Boyd came up with the phrase, “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act,” in the 1950s. This has come to be known in military and planning circles as the “OODA loop”, and it resonates with what we’re seeing now. We imagine internal engagement and feedback loops will only increase in speed and effectiveness as we move forward.

Last, there is no such thing as perfection. This is an evolving landscape, and we will continue to share insights as we seek feedback from our clients and our industry.

This ☝️ & More 👉

We will expand on each area above in our upcoming webinar series. The first session is intended to occur during the “lunch hour” for anyone on eastern standard time and the second session is intended to help anyone in the pacific time zone. We look forward to an engaging session! Don’t forget to save your seat! 👉

 

Option 1: Wednesday, August 12th from 12 – 1 pm eastern time.

Option 2: Thursday, August 13th from 2 – 3 pm eastern time.

Don't forget to Save Your Seat!