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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Issue of Online Cheating

Online education is viewed as an important tool for providing affordable instruction to a greater number of students. One issue that could derail the whole idea is a perception that cheating is widespread and easy to accomplish online.

Online colleges already employ technology that can monitor a student taking a test through webcams, remotely lock computer browsers from the Internet, and track typing patterns, all in an effort to guard against cheating. Unfortunately, all a student needs is a hidden cheat sheet to foil even the most state-of-the-art tool.

“Security is incredibly important,” William Dornan, CEO of the test-monitoring firm Kryterion Inc., told eCampus News. “If it’s known you can cheat, that completely dilutes the brand.”

Some software uses biographical information for identification checks and can determine when an answer to a difficult question is given at the same speed as an easy one. But other procedures are much less high-tech.

Online programs at the University of Maryland and community colleges in Colorado use small-scale assessments instead of high-stakes final exams and urge using online resources that can alert instructors to sudden changes in a student’s writing or chatroom posts. EdX gives its exams to students seeking credit at commercial centers with proctors.

“I think online education can definitely work, but everyone has to cooperate and give it a chance,” said Teresa Lane, a library manager who is a volunteer proctor for The University of the People.

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