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Excellence in education is all about the teacher – never about the medium.

Reflect on your own learning journey; do you have a teacher (lecturer, instructor or tutor) who stands out? Someone who empowered you and enabled you to learn; someone who made a particular subject seem irresistible or inspired you to embrace life-long learning?

With students everywhere studying online, some teachers, despite the medium, will be marvellous. They do need to master the online platforms they use, but with proficiency they can make the technology all but ‘disappear’ and continue to inspire the learners who depend on them.

This moment in time presents an exciting opportunity for teachers and students everywhere. The internet is here and many remarkable learning tools are available. Dedicated and agile education providers can facilitate a learning experience for a student which is dynamic, interactive and innovative.

It is also an approach to education that does not discriminate. It can reach into the remotest of global and rural corners, around full-time work, and out of the way of an insidious pandemic.

Education providers must, however, be mindful of students who lack the necessary network infrastructure. But never underestimate the determination of learners; owning a mobile phone can suffice. Those who design education for online learners must target this device.

It is the greatest mistake to hurriedly equate online education with flexibility. Students must meet those brilliant teachers in real time if they are to remain engaged in their learning experience. So, promote your inflexible online learning proudly; schedule your lessons and tutorials and take role call! Offer students flexibility and your attrition and failure rates will rocket.

Having exhorted you to embrace inflexibility, all online platforms offer learners enormous flexibility too. If a scheduled live webinar/tutorial cannot be attended, the recorded session - sent to all in the class - can be reviewed any number of times and at the students’ leisure.

Furthermore, readings, videos, pre-recorded lectures, and online remote and virtual labs are all available 24/7.

Now that the stuff of learning is progressing apace, students will need to be assessed! Can online education work if academic integrity cannot be assured? Again, software emerges as the saviour. There are packages such as IRIS ( which have even outdone the human invigilator. It ably detects students trying to cut corners because it has the ears and eyes of a proctor or monitor - but one who never blinks.

Many, however, remain sceptical about the real scope of an online platform. How can it enable students to develop skills? How can learning be contextualised? And how can those overarching concepts, ideas and knowledge be applied?

For some subjects and skills this will prove impossible. Teaching someone to resuscitate an unresponsive adult, for example; a student requires a volunteer or a life-size manikin on which to practice. And a mere 15 to 20 years ago an engineering student could not have applied his newly acquired knowledge outside of a laboratory or on a real work site.

With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the 4th Industrial Revolution, however, this has all changed. In fact, the engineering industry itself has changed; much of what is accomplished on site is dependent on the internet and on technology. It is this that has allowed students to apply and test their knowledge on real equipment via remote labs, to access engineering plants via simulations and to experiment on various engineering applications and tools via virtual labs.

To calculate the temperature change and response time for different thermocouple and RTD installations, for example, students can log into a data logger remotely (as pictured below).

Differential Thermocouple Configuration:


Rahm Emanuel, a former mayor of Chicago, said:

“Never let a crisis go to waste. ….it is an opportunity to do things you could not do before”

This is our crisis and our opportunity. We are living in uncertain times, but we must continue to offer excellence in education; to inspire and prepare our students for work and for a world which will inevitably present them with new challenges and change. 

Written by Quintus Potgieter
Published: 25 March 2019

Remote invigilation - otherwise known as online proctoring - might just be the critical factor when measuring the success of online higher education. Online education without digital supervision would naturally be a sticking point for education accreditation boards across the globe. It is not surprising, therefore, that online proctoring solutions are growing.

Curtin University and the Engineering Institute of Technology (EIT) have been hard at work developing the Intelligent Remote Invigilation System (IRIS). It is a cloud-based platform which utilizes machine learning to monitor students during online examination and eTests.

During an examination the software records audio and video in real time. The machine learning studies these records and red-flags any suspicious behaviour. This evidence is automatically sent to the relevant examiners.

Screenshots are taken at intervals and sent to the invigilating program, this is to double-check what students are seeing on their screens. If anything, other than what should be there is detected, the program flags this as suspicious.

IRIS is cloud-based – this means that no heavy software is required on a student’s device; in fact it is so lightweight it can run on a web browser. Furthermore, because the machine learning is largely responsible for identifying potential cheaters, the requirement for staff involvement drops off significantly.

A big benefit to the system is the learning analytics that provide incredibly detailed insight into educational trends and patterns based on real student data. Curtin University told IT News that they hope to see the invention make its way to the ‘rest of Australia's 700 Vocational Education and Training providers’.

A new chapter in online education

Perfecting online proctoring is of utmost importance considering the global online education market is projected to reach a total market size of US$286.62 billion by 2023, as reported by Research and Markets. This means more and more students are opting for online study - but invigilating those students remotely, during examinations, is a tall order. An excerpt of the report reads:

“Platforms that facilitate learning through gaming are gaining popularity, improvements in IT security and implementation of cloud-based solutions has increased the adoption rate of online education system as now, people can enjoy a smooth learning experience on safe online platforms. Advancements in the field of artificial intelligence are expected to further boost the growth rate of the online education market.”

Although critical in the virtual classroom, online invigilation is likely to become a useful tool in the physical classroom too – as part of an on-campus, hybrid learning invigilation system. The problems with on-campus invigilation are prompting the change; these include the need for a battalion of human invigilators and the greater margin for error (whereas an automated system can monitor students individually).

In South Africa for instance, even at the Further Education and Training phase (Grades 10 to 12), the Independent Examination Board has instructed schools to install invigilation cameras in any venue where examinations take place.

It is clear that invigilation technologies are becoming more vital to education institutions around the world, but especially to legitimize online education once and for all.

Works Cited

Johnston, Matt. “Benchmark Awards 2019 Finalists: Curtin Uni Remote Exam Invigilation.” ITnews, 4 Feb. 2019,
ltd, Research and Markets. “Global Online Education Market - Forecasts from 2018 to 2023.” Research and Markets - Market Research Reports - Welcome,