Safe Exam Browser vs. SMOWL: which is better for digital exams?

As educational institutions and businesses adapt to the demands of remote learning, ensuring the integrity of online exams has become...
2 November 2023

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Safe Exam Browser vs. SMOWL: which is better for digital exams?

As educational institutions and businesses adapt to the demands of remote learning, ensuring the integrity of online exams has become a top priority.

Two prominent tools, Safe Exam Browser and SMOWL, have emerged as popular options for safeguarding the examination process.

In this article, we will explore the features and advantages of both solutions to help you determine which one is more suitable for your digital exam needs.

What is Safe Exam Browser?

Safe Exam Browser is a web browsing tool that emulates browsers like Chrome or Firefox, specifically designed to conduct secure digital assessments and exams.

When installed on a user’s device, it temporarily transforms the computer into a secure workspace during the exam, rigorously controlling and blocking access to unauthorized resources, such as websites and external applications. For its operation, it connects through the internet to a learning management system (LMS).

Some of its prominent features include blocking unauthorized websites, full-screen mode to minimize distractions, customization capabilities for administrators to adapt to institution-specific needs, and robust resistance to cheating and deception by students.

Safe Exam Browser vs. SMOWL: which is better for digital exams?

Disadvantages of Safe Exam Browser

While Safe Exam Browser offers certain features to ensure security during online exams, it also has significant disadvantages that should be considered.

1. Lack of User Identity Verification:

One critical aspect is that Safe Exam Browser does not verify the user’s identity. This means there is no robust process to ensure that the student taking the exam is truly who they claim to be, which could open the door to identity fraud and compromise the integrity of the evaluation process.

2. Limited User Support:

Another significant drawback is that communication with Safe Exam Browser is limited to the educational institution. 

This means the tool does not provide direct support to students, and any communication or problem resolution occurs through the institution, which can hinder efficient technical assistance or problem resolution.

3. Lack of User Registration:

Additionally, Safe Exam Browser lacks a user registration system. This can complicate exam management and student identification, as there is no centralized process to keep track of who has used the tool at any given time.

4. Not a Comprehensive Proctoring Tool:

It’s important to note that despite its security functionalities, Safe Exam Browser is not a complete proctoring tool or a real-time monitoring system.

Its primary focus is on restricting access to unauthorized resources during the exam, rather than actively monitoring user activity. 

This means it does not offer all the capabilities of a comprehensive proctoring system, potentially limiting its effectiveness in detecting cheating during online exams.


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SMOWL Proctoring as an Alternative

SMOWL plans offer an advanced proctoring solution that surpasses the limitations of tools like Safe Exam Browser (SEB) in several key aspects.

No Additional Software Installation:

Firstly, unlike SEB, SMOWL does not require additional software installation on users’ devices in its browser-locking mode, making implementation and use more straightforward. Users only need to add an extension to their preferred browser (such as Chrome or Edge) without the need for an additional blocking browser.

Browser Locking or Evidence Collection: Your Choice

Another major advantage of SMOWL is its ability to provide exam blocking and comprehensive monitoring of user behavior and the testing environment through its SMOWL CM functionality.

SMOWL CM is simple software that, once installed on your users’ PCs, allows you to start collecting evidence from the beginning of the test. These pieces of evidence can come from connected peripherals, open applications, copy-paste actions, and more. Importantly, you can decide which evidence is relevant, all detailed in reports that we will explain further.

If you still prefer a blocking tool, SMOWL offers SMOWL LOCK as an alternative to SMOWL CM

SMOWL LOCK is a Chrome extension that allows you to issue warnings to test-takers when they commit violations and, if necessary, block their participation in the exam—all without the need for additional software installation, as mentioned earlier. This flexibility is crucial as it enables organizations to customize evaluation rules according to their needs.

SMOWL Proctoring as an alternative to Safe Exam Browser

Enhanced Security with Webcam Use

SMOWL uses webcam image capture to gather real-time evidence throughout the test. Additionally, an additional camera, such as a smartphone or tablet, can provide 360-degree monitoring of the room where the user is taking the test. Moreover, thanks to Smowltech’s advanced biometric technology, the same webcam can authenticate the user’s identity, confirming that they are the same person enrolled or affiliated with your institution or company.

Comprehensive Evidence Reports and Analytics

SMOWL is also known for its ability to generate detailed evidence reports within 24 hours after the exam, providing you with concrete data on user behavior during the test.

All SMOWL plans grant access to the MySmowltech client area, a user-friendly space where you can easily navigate. Here, you can check activity reports and evidence. You can also configure your alarms (and their strictness) before the exam. 

Ultimately, you will receive a tailored report to meet your specific needs.

The client area also includes sections for licenses and integrations, where you can check the current status and manage integration requests for SMOWL in your virtual campuses like Moodle and OpenLMS.

Another key advantage is SMOWL’s customer support service, available in both Spanish and English, covering all time zones to ensure that your institution receives technical assistance when needed.

Safe Exam Browser is a locked browser

Conclusion: which option to choose?

The choice between Safe Exam Browser and SMOWL depends on your specific needs.

If simplicity and cost savings are your priorities, Safe Exam Browser may be the better option.

However, if you require advanced monitoring and rigorous identity verification, SMOWL offers a solid solution.

Request a free demo from us and try SMOWL without any commitment. You can verify each of the benefits we’ve outlined in this article.


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