We often get asked if Brillium provides any functionality to prevent respondents from copy-pasting or otherwise duplicating question content. At this time, Web browser functionality does not allow us to prevent such actions. However, we can offer some strategies to help protect your organization's assessment content.
First, Some History
Back in the 2000's Brillium (called "Testcraft" at the time). did have a feature we called the "Secure Browser". By turning this feature on, it would do everything possible to lock down certain features of the respondent's browser by essentially disabling the clipboard (the copy and paste mechanism), attempting to disable the print functionality of the browser, and various other hacks in order to approximate a "secure" test taking environment.
So what happened? Well, unfortunately less virtuous people on the Web used these same types of scripts on their own sites to maliciously control people's computers and browsers. It was pretty bad. The browser manufacturers got wise to this and rightfully disabled these functions to protect their users from these malicious Web sites. Our "secure browser" functionality was also disabled by these browser changes. Bad news for us and our customers, but the Web as a whole became more secure.
Considering the Problem at Hand
We've spent a ton of time considering many solutions to this issue, but unfortunately they all come with significant downsides and ultimately don't really offer any protection of the content. It would be foolish to offer something to our customers that can be circumvented easily.
Let's pretend for a moment, what if you could lock down someone's computer so they could only respond to the assessment and do nothing else. How could this be defeated by someone bent on stealing the questions? Easy, cell phone camera. Take a picture of each page of content with your phone. Don't have a camera handy? Grab a pen and paper and write them down. Unless you are controlling that person's physical environment, you aren't controlling much of anything.
Not to mention, locking down a computer or device would require a program or app to be installed on that device. One of the largest benefits of Brillium's assessments is they may be taken by clicking on a simple Web link without any installation of software required. Do you really want to require test takers to download an app, install it, and have it sit their on computer or device afterwards? What if something doesn't work? What if something unrelated breaks on their device and they blame your app? Do you want them calling you, frustrated, because they can't do something as simple as answering some questions? We believe your time, and the respondent's time, is more valuable than that.
So, What Can Be Done?
There are still things you can do to protect your question content. You may wish to implement any number of these protection strategies.
- Keeping honest people honest. For many people, a strongly worded warning is sufficient to prevent them from copying your content. In the past, we've seen customers have success with a bold, red message like: "WARNING: Your test session is being monitored. Attempts to copy questions or content are prohibited. If you are caught... blah blah blah." You get the idea. This is easy to do with Brillium's Agreement screen feature.
- Make copying more difficult. Set the number of questions per page to 1. Set a reasonable time limit for your assessment. Turn off the review at the end of the assessment. Make use of features like the invitation manager to ensure respondents may only complete assessments once and then shut off the ability to retake the assessment. These features can all contribute to a more secure assessment.
- Large question pools. Many of our customers make extensive use of our randomization functionality. If you are going to ask each respondent 20 questions, randomly selecting from a pool of 100 questions (or even 50 for that matter) would mean each respondent is going to get a vastly different assessment from the other respondents. Even if someone did copy the content, they only have a portion of it. You may even be able to identify who copied the content by the series of questions that was copied. Not ideal, but used in combination with other strategies, it can go a long way.
- Proctored environment. For those customers that have a high-stakes or extremely confidential assessments, we recommend committing to a fully proctored environment. These are places where the respondent meets with a verified proctor, shows their ID, places their personal items in a locker, and completes the assessment while being physically monitored by the proctor and sometimes even a camera system. There are several organizations out there that offer these services in many different cities around the world.
Protecting question content is an important topic for many organizations. Many come to us expecting a simple answer. Unfortunately, the issue is more complex than it appears at first. Hopefully this article has given you some understanding of the difficulties involved and provided you with some ideas on how to mitigate the issue.