What does SMOWL detect?

In the lines that follow, we will delve into the workings of SMOWL’s detection capabilities and how they pertain to...
13 July 2022

Table of contents

What does SMOWL detect?

In the lines that follow, we will delve into the workings of SMOWL’s detection capabilities and how they pertain to monitoring online activities. This information is crucial as it sheds light on the extent to which our system can identify certain actions during an online exam.

But, what does SMOWL detect?

Specifically, SMOWL can uncover whether a test-taker has accessed external websites while attempting the exam. This includes distinguishing between activities that are permitted and those that are prohibited.

Upon reading this piece, you will come to appreciate that our proctoring solution goes beyond merely verifying a student’s identity through image capture. It extends its vigilance to encompass the entirety of the test-taking experience.

SMOWL doesn’t solely focus on observing the examinee’s physical actions, but also their interactions both within and outside the computer environment. This level of scrutiny is exemplified in the PC version of SMOWL, where the system can detect the presence of other applications concurrently running alongside the Learning Management System (LMS).

This encompasses tools such as word processors, image editors, spreadsheet applications, calculators, and more.

smowl detects other devices

Furthermore, SMOWL records the test-taker’s internet browsing history, a feature we will delve into further.

How does SMOWL detect external website activity during an online exam?

To begin, it’s essential to understand that we rely on four primary monitoring elements:

  • Camera
  • Desktop
  • Audio
  • Human Oversight

Each SMOWL version allows us to specifically monitor the desktop activity. Within the configuration options of this version, you can adjust the level of filtering applied, including the feature related to detecting internet browsing.

These findings are then presented in the report, categorized for easy reference. This categorization includes:

smowl incident report
  • Authorized Web Navigation: This denotes actions considered acceptable by the educational institution. These are typically non-penalty actions and do not raise concerns.
  • Unauthorized Web Navigation: If the system detects a test-taker accessing web content from the same browser or a different one, this action is flagged as a potential violation. The specific URL is documented for reference.
smowl detects other sites

In the comprehensive report provided at the conclusion of the monitoring session, any instances of unauthorized web navigation are indicated by a red visual indicator.

Conversely, the report will display this as a valid outcome when no unauthorized web activity is identified.


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The report quantifies the number of instances and considers the frequency and nature of these external queries.

While one might assume that online exams shouldn’t require external sources, consider scenarios where exam questions pertain to social media profiles or demand references from current events. In such cases, controlled web browsing might be deemed permissible.

pdf in an online exam

The PC version of SMOWL also captures browser type and browsing duration. This includes discerning which browser(s) were used for web navigation and how much time was spent on each site.

online test activity report

SMOWL’s Detection Beyond Web Browsing

In addition to its web detection capabilities, SMOWL is proficient in identifying other devices and applications accessed during the exam. This entails:

  • Peripheral Devices: SMOWL is adept at identifying multiple monitors, HDMI connections, extra keyboards, and even peripheral devices such as cell phones connected via USB.
  • External Applications: SMOWL also detect applications aside from the LMS and proctoring tools. Any opened applications or tabs outside the sanctioned exam environment are scrutinized.

For instance, if a PDF is accessed to review instructions, this would be noted as permissible. However, should an unauthorized PDF be opened, the system would raise a red flag, specifying the frequency of access.

Concerns and Resolution

Inquiries about potential monitoring errors are addressed. Given that SMOWL’s operations are guided by artificial intelligence and a secure algorithm, the potential for error is minimized.

If SMOWL detects unauthorized web navigation due to unintentional actions, the test-taker is advised to notify the relevant authorities. This allows the examiner to differentiate between well-intentioned actions and deliberate misconduct, thus influencing potential penalties.

Addressing Common Queries

In response to queries about circumventing SMOWL’s vigilance and its monitoring capabilities, it’s worth noting that SMOWL serves as a secure substitute for in-person monitoring. It captures all pertinent data in accordance with GDPR.

Furthermore, tailored versions of SMOWL are available to cater to the unique needs of educational institutions and training entities. The interpretation of findings is reliant on the reviewer assigned the task of evaluating the data, prior to awarding academic credentials.

To clarify, SMOWL offers evidence-based insights; however, final decisions are made by individuals responsible for evaluating the data. This underscores the impartial nature of the assessment process.

You can explore the video provided for further insights into the process, including user registration, test-taking, and report visualization.


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