Proctor U

National online proctoring company is happy to call Pelham home.

by André Natta

Proctor U

There is a great deal of talk all over the place recently about our regional tech scene. The announcement of a plan to spotlight tech companies in metro Birmingham by groups including TechBirmingham, the Birmingham Business Alliance and Birmingham Entrepreneur did a great deal to shock the casual observer into realizing just how big the scene had become —773 and counting.

One of those companies is ProctorU, an online proctoring service that started its life as an internal project at Andrew Jackson University in Hoover in 2008. It currently calls Pelham home, with a second office in Livermore, California that was established in 2010. There are close to 80 employees between the two offices as of late January.It’s worth pointing out they only had 12 employees at the same time last year.

January was a moment of celebration for the company as it added UAB to its list of 142 partner institutions. The list has seen significant growth, standing at close to 30 just a year ago. The volume of work in that time has grown by a factor of eight.

Jarrod Morgan, one of the service’s co-founders can’t think of any other place to be—and couldn’t be happier to have landed his newest partner.

“It was something that had started as a bit of a joke. We started in metro Birmingham, and [UAB]’s the university that everyone knows around here. We didn’t feel as though we’d accomplished what we needed to until we’d convince them that [the service] was worthwhile.”

“It was important” to finally begin the UAB partnership. He pointed out, “A lot of UAB alum work for us. Everyone from the Birmingham region knows that UAB is a quality institution.”

It was fitting culmination of what Morgan describes as “a two year period of pushing and working hard”—something that should help them locally build on the integrity of their product and brand.

“We had several pilot projects that blossomed into full-scale relationships this past year.”

Morgan explains, “In the education space, you don’t just walk in the door and get someone to believe in you. You have to build a relationship and earn their trust.”

They’ve already started proctoring exams for the university’s college of business. In addition to this recent signing, ProctorU counts the University of Arizona, University of Florida and, as of late last year, the University of Alabama as partners.

Their first in-state partner however was Troy University, which signed on for a trial back in 2009. They’ve since become the largest single user nationwide.

Clients needing to take an exam simply need a computer with working speakers, a microphone, a Flash-enabled browser and the ability to allow remote access to your computer and screen by a proctor. Additional security measures ensure that the person on the other side of the screen is in fact who they say.

“It’s the same thing you do in the classroom. We see the student, we see what they’re doing and we know who they are.”

The ability for institutions of higher education to have confidence in providing a secure environment to take exams was expected. The human interaction using digital tools has led to something that Morgans says was unexpected—a high number of students who sing the service’s praises.

“We have extremely high approval ratings with students—surprisingly so when you’re talking about what is essentially an anti-cheating service. Students really like it because they have a concierge, a hand holder. When they’re getting ready to get into the exam and the browser starts crashing or their webcam’s not working, we have a person right there who can fix it on demand…”

He looks to that satisfaction among students as a reason they’ve been able to grow quickly alongside the ever-expanding world of online education, especially as the country continues to attempt to rebound from The Great Recession.

There’s a wealth of opportunity in the industry as well considering that according to Morgan, “… all of the companies that do what we do combined probably only have about five percent of the market.”

While there is a second location on the West Coast, Morgan is quick to point out, “We’re committed to Birmingham. We needed another location for redundancy purposes.”

This allows for them to never have to worry about potential downtime for clients regardless of things like power outages. He also pointed out that it made more sense financially to build smaller offices instead of creating a larger office in one location, suggesting that as the company continues to expand, it will continue to look at establishing smaller satellite offices instead of trying to open one central office.

He is quick to point out the benefits of being headquartered in metro Birmingham, including access to ideal potential workers.

“There are lots people that are technically-savvy and customer-service minded.”

He’s also quick to point out something that is fast becoming an accepted fact instead of something shared in hushed tones. “There is a wealth of potential in Birmingham.”

Yes, there is.

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