Online learning advocates, in their advocacy for more investment in web-based courses, have run into a counterargument time and again: cheating among online students drains legitimacy from the nontraditional classes.
Cheating in online classes have proven a contentious issue, even as universities devise ways to fight cheating and more proprietary options crop up every year.
The proliferation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has further stoked the online cheating debate, with MOOC detractors pointing to academic dishonesty as a reason to remain skeptical of the new online form.
Here’s a rundown of the four most common — and popular — ways colleges, universities, and MOOC platforms are battling against cheating in online courses.
Keystroke monitoring software: Instead of relying on passwords or fingerprint scans, many online programs and some major MOOC platforms are exploring the use of technology that recognizes and identifies keystroke patterns. Pace University researchers who delved deep into the potential of keystroke technology charged they could accurately identify a student in more than 99 percent of tests.
“… The keystroke biometric seems appropriate for the student authentication process,” the Pace researchers wrote. “Stylometry appears to be a useful addition to the process because the correct student may be keying in the test answers but a coach could be providing the answers and the student merely typing the coach’s words without bothering to convert the linguistic style into his own.”
Halting cheating the old-fashioned way: Faculty members concerned that students are consulting Google’s everlasting well of knowledge during MOOC quizzes, tests, and final exams can cut down on cheating by simply creating multiple forms of an exam – potentially a simpler solution than the high-tech anti-plagiarism programs that can detect keystrokes and monitor students’ actions during online tests.
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In the journal Research & Practice in Assessment, UVA Curry School of Education assistant professor J. Patrick Meyer and doctoral student Shi Zhu advocate the far less sophisticated anti-cheating measure as a way to ensure academic quality during the spread of MOOCs throughout higher education.
Ensuring that all the forms of an online exam are equally difficult would require some homework from professors bent on stopping cheating, Meyer and Zhu wrote. The test forms would require a common scale “so that scores have the same meaning and interpretation.”
Browser lockdown technology solutions: Battling the ever-present answer machine that is Google has been a thorn in the side of online educators for man years. Browser lockdown programs have proven effective in stopping this form of cheating, as students’ computer screens are locked down once they’ve launched a quiz or test.
Advocates of this anti-cheating technology advocate for the use of webcams in combination with the lockdown software, since students could easily use their smartphones, tablets, and other computers and laptops to Google questions on an online test.
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