ESCI-UPF: A trailblazer in Bioinformatics and Proctoring

Bioinformatics and proctoring, two seemingly disparate concepts from the scientific and technological realms respectively, find common ground in the Bioinformatics...
6 November 2023

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ESCI-UPF: A trailblazer in Bioinformatics and Proctoring

Bioinformatics and proctoring, two seemingly disparate concepts from the scientific and technological realms respectively, find common ground in the Bioinformatics Degree offered at the Escola Superior de Comerç Internacional (ESCI-UPF).

This post delves into their interconnection, rooted fundamentally in the institution’s commitment to modern education, enhanced by secure and flexible tools.

Bioinformatics program among its academic offerings

Over its 30-year tenure, ESCI-UPF has been dedicated to molding professionals in international business, embodying values like respect, sustainability, and multiculturalism. Its educational approach seeks to spur social, intellectual, and economic growth, particularly in underserved social sectors and countries.

Boasting a vibrant community of over 3,000 alumni, ESCI-UPF aspires to continue being a hub for applied research, thus benefiting global enterprises and institutions.

ESCI-UPF: A trailblazer in Bioinformatics and Proctoring

This mission is buttressed by a cadre of highly qualified teachers and researchers from prestigious companies, ensuring top-tier education.

The academic programs at ESCI-UPF, such as the Degree in International Business and Marketing and the Degree in Bioinformatics, are tailored to meet contemporary demands. Moreover, it offers a range of master’s and postgraduate courses, reflecting its dedication to lifelong learning and academic excellence.

Spain’s foremost Degree in Bioinformatics

Since its inception in 1993 by the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, ESCI-UPF has had a notable trajectory in training experts in international business. 

Over the years, it has expanded its academic repertoire, introducing new programs like the Bachelor in Market Research and Techniques in 2002, and more recently in 2016, the groundbreaking Degree in Bioinformatics.

This latest initiative emerged from a collaboration among the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, and the Universitat de Barcelona, once again showcasing its pioneering spirit in Spain.


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Using Proctoring for on-site Bioinformatics exams

At ESCI-UPF, the SMOWL proctoring system was chosen to ensure the integrity of remote exams during the pandemic. However, post reintegration into classrooms, they opted to retain and adapt the exam format using the student’s own equipment.

Now, they employ SMOWL CLASS for on-site exams in the Bioinformatics Degree. Through the SMOWL CM functionality included in the mentioned plan, the institution can monitor the user’s computer activity during the exam, detecting open applications, browser tabs, connected devices, and copy-paste actions, among other relevant aspects. 

While it merely gathers evidence, granting total freedom to the students, it’s up to the evaluator to decide how to proceed with the collected evidence.

In the Bioinformatics degree, “students use Linux as an OS, and need access to different tools during the test. Traditional solutions enabling kiosk mode did not meet our requirements,” explains Christian Polo, the IT Manager of the institution.

“SMOWL is one of the few that runs on Linux and gives total freedom to the student regarding the use of applications during the exam,” he adds.

Spain’s foremost Degree in Bioinformatics

Using SMOWL in entrance exams

The institution also leaned towards SMOWL for some exams in entrance tests. In this case, it was a mixed Windows-Mac environment. Through SMOWL reports, they realized, contrary to expectations, that a significant number of newly enrolled students used Mac OS X.

Proctoring in Bioinformatics Degree: empowering the teacher

One of the objectives of using proctoring in on-site exams is to provide freedom to the teacher in preparing the most suitable test. This allows teachers to prepare exams “that are not just a mere questionnaire on an LMS”.

Regarding evidence collection, ESCI-UPF teachers also note that it’s “extremely easy” to filter or search for inappropriate behaviors by students, with the review of the reports generated by SMOWL being imperative.

Students prefer digital exams

The feedback from students has also been overwhelmingly positive, finding SMOWL an “easy to install” application with no impact on their equipment. They don’t miss any of the tools they have already installed, and overall, after getting used to it, they prefer digital exams.

Additionally, the preparation and training were quite straightforward: installation quizzes were developed so that students could arrive on the test day with SMOWL installed, also informing them of the use and scope of the tool.


Regarding the members of the institution itself, which has inherited the regulation of online testing from one of its founding universities – the Pompeu Fabra University -, they highlight the constant evolution of the product, the proximity of the human team, the support, and the flexibility that the solution provides.

Proctoring is no longer limited to remote exams. At ESCI-UPF, we have incorporated it into our in-person assessments in a complex environment (Linux, different software development environments and tools, access to external resources…). The tool is flexible and easy for the faculty to use.

Christian Polo, IT Manager of ESCI-UPF

The future of proctoring in degrees such as Bioinformatics

As Christian Polo, IT Manager of ESCI-UPF points out, tools like proctoring will allow to “increase the number of students per assessment test” and include “new formats of the tests” to institutions like his.

Using Proctoring for on-site Bioinformatics exams

“The proctoring tools ensured the accomplishment of the assessment tests during the pandemic. From all that, our learning was being able to assess our students with their own equipment in our building, giving more flexibility to the teachers when designing their exams,” he concludes.

In short, through the use of the mentioned proctoring plans and its educational methodology, ESCI-UPF continues to lead in the training of professionals capable of facing global challenges, and maintains its relevance in a constantly changing world, addressing issues of international importance and contributing to the discussion and solutions in these areas.

Its trajectory and continuous efforts reflect ESCI-UPF’s aspiration to be a key player in the global educational and business scene.


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