Safe Exam Browser: what it is, its purpose, and alternatives

If you’re an educator or a professional involved in online exam administration or certifications, chances are you’ve heard of Safe...
1 November 2023

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Safe Exam Browser: what it is, its purpose, and alternatives

If you’re an educator or a professional involved in online exam administration or certifications, chances are you’ve heard of Safe Exam Browser (SEB) as one of the options for overseeing these types of assessments.

While it may not be the most comprehensive tool on the market, its open-source nature has garnered a substantial user base.

In this post, we will delve into what Safe Exam Browser is, its primary function, and also explore some existing alternatives.

What is Safe Exam Browser?

Safe Exam Browser is a web browser that creates a secure environment for conducting digital assessments or tests.

This innovative tool temporarily transforms any computer into a secure workspace for the duration of an exam or certification.

Safe Exam Browser: what it is, its purpose, and alternatives

What does this mean in practical terms?

It means that Safe Exam Browser controls access to resources such as system functions, other websites, and applications, preventing the use of unauthorized resources during an exam.

How does Safe Exam Browser work?

In practical terms, Safe Exam Browser is software exam-takers must install on their computer. After installation, it connects through the internet to a Learning Management System (LMS).

Safe Exam Browser offers a set of compelling features for educational institutions and companies, ensuring security during online exams:

  1. Website Blocking: Safe Exam Browser blocks access to unauthorized websites during the exam, preventing students from seeking answers or external resources.
  2. Full-Screen Mode: Safe Exam Browser typically operates in full-screen mode to prevent students from switching to other applications or windows on their computer during the exam.
  3. Centralized Control: Administrators usually have the ability to configure and customize Safe Exam Browser to meet the institution’s specific needs and exam requirements.
  4. Security: Safe Exam Browser is designed to be resistant to cheating and deception, striving to ensure that students cannot modify settings or evade restrictions.
  5. Virtual Machine Detection: This system can detect if a user is using a virtual machine.

These are just some of the most important features of this software. However, it’s important not to confuse this tool with a proctoring or anti-plagiarism system.


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What does Safe Exam Browser detect and what doesn’t it?

Safe Exam Browser is a useful tool with its own strengths and weaknesses in the online assessment environment.

Among its strengths, Safe Exam Browser stands out for being free and open-source, making it accessible to a wide range of educational institutions. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, it has the capability to detect the use of virtual machines, which helps prevent computer impersonation during exams.

It is also versatile in terms of platforms, working on both computers and tablets, making implementation easier.

However, Safe Exam Browser also has some weaknesses. For instance, it does not verify the user’s identity, which could open the door to potential identity fraud.

Furthermore, its communication is limited to the institution, which may hinder collaboration or technical support in situations of technical problems.

Additionally, Safe Exam Browser does not offer a user registration system, which can complicate exam management and student identification.

Lastly, it’s important to note that SEB is a secure browser tool but does not provide comprehensive monitoring, as its primary focus is on restricting access to unauthorized resources rather than actively monitoring user activity during an exam.

Alternatives to Safe Exam Browser

While Safe Exam Browser is a valuable tool for ensuring the integrity of online exams, some alternatives may better suit your specific needs.

Other Lockdown Browser options

One alternative is to consider a lockdown browser from companies like Respondus. This system is very similar to Safe Exam Browser but is costly.

The advantages of using a paid lockdown browser include technical support from the provider and official updates.

You can also opt for one of SMOWL’s options, SMOWL CLASS, which, thanks to an extension designed for Chromium browsers (Chrome, Edge, Opera, etc.), offers similar blocking capabilities without cumbersome additional installations.

What does Safe Exam Browser detect and what doesn't it?

Proctoring: a more comprehensive option

However, consider proctoring if you’re looking for a much more comprehensive and complete option.

Proctoring tools focus on actively supervising students during exams. Typically, they utilize webcams, microphones, and other sensors to monitor student behavior and detect any suspicious activity, such as looking away or conversing with someone during the exam.

Furthermore, proctoring tools are geared toward detecting and preventing cheating through active student monitoring and the identification of suspicious behaviors, rather than directly blocking or restricting access.

Some of these tools also can authenticate the user’s identity, a feature that Safe Exam Browser lacks.

In any case, SMOWL’s proctoring plans allow you to choose between a more lenient or restrictive approach, allowing your institution to decide whether to monitor and collect evidence actively or to block, similar to Safe Exam Browser. The choice is yours.

If you want to experience the benefits of all these functions firsthand, feel free to request a free demo from us. We’ll be happy to guide you through the entire process.


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