Webcam Requirement Question
Hello, regarding the webcam requirement for online ARE exams, could you clarify which webcams are suitable and what the process will be? I think it would be helpful for everyone if NCARB could suggest a few specific models and brands so that everyone can be sure they have a compliant webcam. Will the webcam sit on top of the computer monitor or will each tester need to show the proctor his desk setup with the webcam in his hand before the test? Or does the webcam need a small tripod and will it be placed behind the tester and looking at the monitor during the test? Many webcams advertise some kind of 360 view, but this is ambiguous because it just means that the webcam hinge can swivel. Are webcams without a full swivel acceptable? Surely 360 view doesn't mean an expensive ($150-$300) 360 degree camera that looks like a small globe with multiple cameras that capture a 3D of the entire environment right?
360 degree camera view is basically fish-eye view and such. You just need a regular high definition webcam and position it so they have a good view of you and are able to move the camera around to show the room. Basically, they need to need to see all the walls of the rooms, verify all doors to the room are closed and all windows to the room have blind or curtains or some kind of means to adequately block view of the exam computer or any other kind of distraction element and to verify no one else is in the room or is able to assist you from a position outside the view of the camera during the exam. They have to verify the clean desk policy and also be able to check things like wiring to check and verify cabling. That maybe recorded and if there is any suspicious device hooked up, it may flag you and the proctors have their tech team to verify if equipment is something like a video recording device or something that can be used in a manner that compromises exam security. That is something that is part of exam security measure to make sure you aren't doing something 'funny'. It is reasonable for them to check for this in remote proctoring because they don't have the same direct measure of control over how your computer is built as at test centers. NCARB and the proctors are going to be checking so place your computer and if possible your powerstrip in a position so they can check and verify things. If you are honest, it is just a part of check-in procedures to be certain you aren't doing some kind of funny business and your compliance with the rules will make this a breeze. If you do do "funny stuff" then you have to be worried because even if you aren't immediately kicked or booted/rejected from taking the exam, you might be in trouble when things are more closely analyzed.
In your case, your webcam should be directly plugged into a USB port or USB card. You will likely only have up to THREE devices hooked up to usb ports. Mouse (wired and wireless via little wireless mouse receiver module), wired keyboard (unless you are using wireless or bluetooth), webcam (high definition.... preferably one that supports 1920x1080 resolution). If you need to have a usb based wifi, you may be allowed to use a USB Wifi dongle module. If you have a plugin card that is internal, that would be preferred to use from the proctoring point of view. You should have a HDMI to HDMI to connect to TV. If your computer has HDMI and your computer has Displayport, a simple HDMI to Display port cable would be preferred but a simple adapter would be acceptable but something more fancy might not be acceptable because they resemble external video recording units. No one-to-many HDMI splitters because they look too similar to a HDMI video recording box so none of those.
Clean desk and fairly clean cabling policy so it is clear that you are not doing some kind of stuff like video out and video back in to say a video input card which you could conceivably be recording the exam session which would potentially compromise exam security. Remember, your web cam will need to be positioned (before you start the exam) to look at your face from forehead to chin and likely your upper torso section not looking at your screen.
Remote proctoring requires the rigor of checking the equipment setup for exam security reasons. They already do that at the test center as normal operating protocols of operating a secure test center. They need to make sure your testing area is a secure testing area that won't place unneccessary risk to exam security by these procedures at check-in to be sure your computer setup is safe, from an exam security perspective. I don't blame them for that. That's at least a responsible thing to do online proctoring in a responsible manner.
BACK TO POINT, All you need is a standard high definition webcam (preferably one with 1920x1080 resolution capability so it's sharp enough resolution for viewing things like your ID and everything else needed for check-in procedures. Cameras like the Logitech c920 HD Pro is probably all you need. This device also has microphone built-in. No need to get overly crazy in spending money on a 360 degree camera.
When doing a 360 degree view, you pick up camera and pan the view slowly and smoothly as possible. Try not to be fast and jerky with the motion otherwise, they're not going to clear you for taking the exam. The Logitech BCC950 can be used but when the exam starts, that remote control will need to be placed in a spot that you can not make use of or in reach during the exam. The camera should not be moved around during exam even though you probably could physically move the camera a little but the idea is not to so you need to be responsible as well and they will want to make sure you aren't grabbing the remote or anything else that you are suppose to be grabbing or using at all during the exam.
The globe thing you are talking about with multiple cameras, could potentially be used but some of those you are talking about that truly are multiple camera on it with multiple camera (other than surplus sales) are actually a bit more expensive. However, most are just a single camera that can is on a motorized swivel that can rotate in the direction you want hands-free (other than operating a remote control). That is not needed. What they need to see is complete view of the room space, ideally from floor surface to ceiling surface all around and view of the cabling of the computer, display screen, so they have a clear idea how you have things hooked up before you start the exam.
It's a measure for exam security.
They will want a high definition camera, not some grainy garbage webcam from 1995-1998 era. They want something that you can read text from and is decent enough and they can check things out even while the examinee is taking the exam if they see something suspicious and can respond to that situation if necessary. Online proctors do record the session for exam security and quality assurance purposes.
FYI: Upload or Upstream of your internet service should be at least 3 Mbps if not 10+ Mbps. Your Downstream (Download) rate should be at least fast enough that you can get a service with 3+ Mbps upload/upstream rate. As a rule of thumb, you should have cable internet service such as the following from Spectrum (or equivalent ISP provider) 100 Mbps package or equivalent from DSL or other equivalent or better internet service connection. Charter/Spectrum's 100 Mbps package provides you at least 10 Mbps upstream and 100 Mbps downstream. If you go to higher speed packages, the upstream goes up by increments up to 30-35 Mbps. Some more expensive ISP services may provide you symmetrical broadband internet where upstream and downstream are equal and having internet of 50-100 Mbps up and down would be great. However, if you are in a very remote location, you won't have broadband internet services of any kind or otherwise is slow and laggy compared to anything remotely like contemporary broadband. If you can't videostream (with audio) 30-60 fps a high definition 1080p bluray video as you would watching one from Amazon Prime Video, you probably need to use test centers until you're location catches up to the 21st century internet. We see this problem today with online schooling with our children. Online proctoring is not YET ready for people in the most remote parts of the world. Not yet. As the technology to bring high speed 100 Mbps internet becomes available to people even in the most remote parts of Alaska or other remote areas of the world where you can have cable TV and DSL that is able to upstream at 10 Mbps level and equal to or great than downstream rate, you are going to have a tough time with online proctoring as you would online video conferencing via Zoom and other similar services like online classes with live over the web teaching. You will need to consider that for the next 5 to 10 years if we actually invest in internet infrastructure. NCARB is trying to get things ready for online proctoring even if you are in a very technologically stone age area as far as telecommunication is concerned. Luckily, most architects and interns are living in more urbanized and suburban environments where this tech is available.
Since you are already looking at the webcam matter, I'm assuming you already have that but anyone else reading may need to consider their internet service if they want to proctor from home or consider their workplace if they can facilitate a room for remote proctoring from the office. If neither is doable, go to the test center.
Not to be disrespectful, Richard, but I would like to see more from an official NCARB source about the specifics on resolution, camera features, and ideal camera setup. Diagrams would be nice, given we are in a design profession. the 360 degree comment can be construed a few different ways. Also, would we need a tripod mount so the remote proctor can view the test takers hands and desk area at all times? It seems plausible but I don't think most webcams come with that option.
Prometric fills in the details here for some of those questions: https://www.prometric.com/proproctorcandidate
Minimally, a 640x480 resolution is required but there are data on the web that outlines upstream requirements at various resolutions since compression algorithms used on the video will be resulting with similar results whether you stream to youtube, facebook, or to Prometric website. You can compress video to a point where it's useless because it is so pixelated. You need to have sufficient bandwidth to have quality output.
Until PSI begins taking over proctoring, you'll be using Prometric as proctor and therefore will be using ProProctor to connect to the proctor.
Watch this video from Prometric: https://vimeo.com/429346554
When PSI becomes the proctor:
Watch this video to get an idea of what to expect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvqONzwF2nM
This 360 degree stuff is coming from the parlance that proctors are using when referring to room scanning all the entire room. They will need to see the whole room, all walls, tables, and other furniture. Remember, it is the proctors who are proctoring the exam and details are specified. If you have a 720p high definition camera, it will work but a 1080 is sharper resolution.
Upstream Bandwidth requirements are for video streaming from webcam would be around these figures: https://restream.io/blog/what-is-a-good-upload-speed-for-streaming/#:~:text=If%20you%20really%20want%20to,is%2020%2C000%20to%2051%2C000%20kbps.
Your internet upload (upstream) needs to be at least 768Kbps for a 640x480 webcam but you'll likely need at least 1 to 1.5 Mbps to have margin for some fluxuation and also for the audio and other data like chat box data, and stuff. If you use a 720p camera, your upstream should be 4.5 Mbps upstream and downstream should be 4.5 Mbps plus 25 Mbps or more that amount at least because of the stuff you need to download to your end including the video/audio stream of the proctor so as to not have laggy video. At 1080p, you'll want upstream to be about 9 to 12 Mbps and downstream would at the very least. Your downstream should be 12 Mbps plus no less than 25 Mbps for fast downloading and processing of the PDF (as long as exam servers can keep up). Most consumer broadband/high speed internet are assymetrical in that they provide a lot more downstreamng (downloading) bandwidth compared to uploading so you want to check BOTH those things so that they are meeting decent bandwidth. NCARB's 3 Mbps is garbage for download rate but okay for upstream rate for the 640 x 480 camera. My background aside from building design is some 3 decades of software development, computer networking, telecommunication infrastructure. I'm suggesting something better than NCARB minimum because your exam experience should be as good as it gets at a cost reasonable level. My advice is so you aren't doing this exam in the mud of some garbage of internet. There is cushion room so things can run smoother than you might have been experiencing at test centers.
NCARB's official document ( https://www.ncarb.org/sites/default/files/GuidetoOnlineProctoring.pdf ) says 3 Mbps of dedicated bandwidth. Those are minimums. NCARB's minimum spec webcam requirement is 640x480. That's because that is the minimum for ProProctor software.
I recommend 720p to 1080p. No need to go 4K for this. The resolution from a 720p and 1080p will make it easier to pick up the text on your state ID/driver's license and your photo image. That's part of the ID confirmation that you are who you say you are. However, that requires more bandwidth for streaming smoothly. To load these PDFs fast (provide the exam server to output to you fast), you'll want a decent download rate like I mentioned. If the server to send the file to you at say 25 Mbps (3.125 Mbytes per seconds) then they'll load much faster like under 3 seconds instead of waiting several seconds. That is what I would hope.
Wow, a lot of thoughts on webcams here! I will keep it simple.
A 360 degree view does not mean a 360 degree camera. This requirement basically means you can grab your external camera (not integrated into a screen) and show the proctor a 360 degree view of your testing space, including under your desk. To do this, the camera would need a long enough cord to show the proctor different views of your space, and the camera would also need to be moveable.
Imagine a basic external webcam that clips to your monitor (NCARB recommends a 19" or larger monitor). When you launch your exam, the camera will take your photo and scan your ID. The check-in agent will then ask you to show them the testing space. At this point, you will unclip the camera from your monitor and show the proctor around the space. After this environmental check is complete, you can clip the camera back to your monitor.
There are a ton of external webcam options out there. As long as it is moveable, meets the resolution requirements, and has a long enough cord to provide the proctor a 360 view of your space, it will work.
Hi Nick at NCARB,
Thank you for the clear answer. Would, say, a phone camera work for the situation as well? For example, if the phone was mounted on the monitor or a tripod during the testing (and demounted during the check-in process). Would that be a suitable alternative?
Thank you for your time!
I am having difficulty getting ANYONE to accept my virtual gift card to purchase a camera. I even contacted merchants over the phone to try to run it with the $50 amount and pay the difference but the card was not processing. Called the gift card company and they were blaming the vendor. Tried on multiple sites to see if it would work elsewhere and the card was continuously declined. Anyone else having difficulty getting to use their gift card?? So much for the help - doesn't seem worth the headache but not how I want to spend my own money.
Calling this 360 is confusing. The term 360 is used in the industry for a specific thing that we all know the meaning of. It's a term my grandma may use :). Simply it's a movable webcam (not 360).
Speaking of movable, can I have a movable cordless webcam? or is it required to be with the cord?
Hi there - in reviewing Proproctor's FAQ here, I came across this answer in response to what kind of web cam do we need :
"You would need a web camera to capture image and video of yourself, your ID and your testing environment. For this any web camera would be enough if it is passing in the system checks. During the check in process you will go through the 360-degree environment check in which you must show the whole testing room to the readiness agent. For the same use the following guidelines.
- In case you are using a desktop then you must be having an external web camera with a connecting USB cable. You can hold that web camera and show all the corner of your room to the readiness agent.
- In case you are using a laptop then you can use either the inbuilt web camera or can use an external web camera. In case of inbuilt web camera, you can pick up the whole laptop and rotate it to show the room to the readiness agent."
This sounds like we can use the built in camera on our laptops - please advise as this goes against other information I've read.
NCARB does not allow candidates taking the ARE to use a built in camera. It must be an external camera with autofocus and the cord length to provide a 360 degree view of the room. Check out page 14 of the ARE Guidelines for additional information on tech requirements.
Commenting because I had a frustrating experience during my test run like Annie above. It is critical to get a camera with autofocus, or else the camera will not focus on your ID when you hold it up close. I ordered this camera but it is no good: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07M6Y7355?ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details&th=1
Trying this one now and hopefully it will work: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09SB9MHWF/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Will report back if successful!
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