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Integrity, security key factors for online licensing exams, says LSO exec

Wednesday, May 13, 2020 @ 2:14 PM | By Amanda Jerome


The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) is transitioning to an online delivery model for its licensing exams in an effort to assist candidates during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law society acknowledged that social distancing rules may not be altered soon, making an in-person exam challenging.

Priya Bhatia, the LSO executive director of professional development and competence, told The Lawyer’s Daily that protecting the licensing exam’s “integrity and security” was a key consideration for the law society and the regulator has chosen an online model suitable for “high stakes exams.”

Priya Bhatia, LSO executive director of professional development and competence

The online model will involve “live remote proctoring” to ensure the security of the exam. Bhatia said that the LSO’s providers in this area, Paradigm Testing and MonitorEDU, specialize in providing services to regulatory bodies.

“There is going to be live proctoring using a webcam and that will be during the entire administration of the examination. This is the method that is established and recognized as the most secure manner of delivering an online examination,” she explained, noting that it’s a “proactive approach.”

“The proctor will be able to communicate with the candidate via audio. They will be able to monitor the candidate through both a webcam that is on the candidate’s laptop or attached to their monitor, and they will also be able to monitor the candidate through the mobile device camera, so it’s a two-camera view to ensure integrity,” she added.

Bhatia said there will still be a “thorough check-in procedure” to allow the proctor to verify the candidate’s identification because the law society doesn’t want impersonation to become an issue.

“We know that candidates will naturally be concerned about making sure their identity is confirmed at the taking of the examination. So, all candidates will be required to show valid government-issued photo ID that will be verified by the proctor through the webcam and there will also be a scan of the testing area, which is in the candidate’s location using the camera. This is very similar to the requirement that we would have now at an in-person examination, [where] someone would also have to show ID with a photo,” she explained.

Bhatia noted the law society has “been very focused on moving towards the online examination delivery [model] as a response to the pandemic.”

“Our current priority has been on evolving the licensing process that’s responsive to these challenges that are presented now and are likely to continue. We realize that it’s unlikely that public health and safety measures regarding social distancing will be lifted or adapted anytime in the near future and as our exams are typically several hundred people large, we saw that [as] a challenge for some time,” she said.

The LSO wanted to offer candidates opportunities to proceed with the licensing process in a “timely fashion,” Bhatia stressed.

“We recognize that the impacts of COVID-19 on candidates have been significant and they are experiencing stress and disruption,” she said, noting that the law society decided approximately four weeks ago to move quickly to a new, online model.

“I have to say, I am very proud of my team for making this transition in record time to facilitate online examination delivery by the early summer,” she added.

Bhatia explained that, normally, a transition such as this would take “six months to a year” and the LSO has “managed to do this in a very quick turnaround time.”

“I would say that it’s a new undertaking for us, and we’re all going to experience unique challenges, and we’re going to learn from the experience. And we encourage candidates to be open to the new method and we welcome their feedback,” she said, noting that candidates and stakeholders will have “lots of questions” about the transition and the LSO will do its best to answer them as it moves forward.

The LSO’s website breaks down the technical and testing environment requirements as well as the rules and protocol for the online licensing exam.

The environment requirements note that the area beneath the licensing candidate’s desk, chair and the walls immediately behind them must be clear. An extension cord is required in case the proctor determines the laptop and camera need to be moved.

The website also notes that “most of the rules and protocols for online delivery are the same as for the in-person delivery. Additional security measures are in place for online delivery to protect the integrity of the examination and preserve a standardized experience as much as possible.”

The first online exam model will be available to select candidates in early June.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact Amanda Jerome at Amanda.Jerome@lexisnexis.ca or call 416-524-2152.