Pre-exam prep that will eliminate most errors 

It has been about six months since Respondus became OUM’s exam monitor. So far, it has been a pretty solid service provider.

For our early first-year students, Respondus essentially turns student computers into workstations with the exam monitoring software as the only operable program for the duration of the assessment. This inability to interact with other programs is great for security and exam integrity, but if those programs are fighting for your computer’s attention it can cause issues.

“Let’s say you have a simple dialog bubble that pops up and asks you to acknowledge it, like the ‘click yes to continue’ bubble we’ve all seen on any number of programs,” says Greg Beber, OUM’s Chief Information Officer. “Normally this is no big deal. But if Respondus is running and preventing you from seeing or interacting with that bubble, it can make it seem like your computer is frozen, and you won’t be able to continue taking your exam.”

Programs running in the background on your computer can cause issues, too. “They can fight for your computer’s resources and prevent Respondus from accessing your webcam or microphone,” says Beber, causing Respondus to register errors. “Conflicts with background processes are responsible for at least 90 percent of the support tickets we receive regarding Respondus.”

Fortunately, there are easy solutions to minimize the likelihood of a conflict.

First, disable non-essential startup programs (which should be pretty much everything – if you’re unsure, Google it or take a screen shot and open a ticket with OUM support). Lots of programs will set themselves to run automatically whenever you start your computer.  While convenient, having these programs set to open automatically on startup actually increases the time it takes your computer to reboot, and needlessly takes up valuable system memory.

“Note, this doesn’t mean removing the programs from your computer,” says Beber. “This just means changing the settings so the program won’t run until you actually launch it when needed.”

You only need to do this once and check periodically after you install new software. Once you change the startup settings, they should stay that way unless/until you change them back. Complete step-by-step instructions with illustrations are available on the OUM Help Desk Knowledge Base.

Next, restart your computer right before any exam attempt. If your startup settings are correct, this should mean you have lots of free memory and no programs running in the background that could conflict with Respondus. Just make sure the only program you launch is your browser, then go straight to Moodle and take your exam.

All these steps are outlined in the Respondus LockDown Browser course in Moodle, where the Respondus practice exam is located.

“To recap,” says Beber, “best practice for exam means:”

  • Disable start-up programs.
  • Always restart your computer before each exam
  • Go directly to and complete the quiz/exam.

“Students can also take the Respondus practice exam in Moodle right before their graded exam, if they want an additional indication that the assessment will go well,” says Beber. “If they get through the practice exam with no problem, they should be confident to go ahead with the graded exam.”

(April 2021)