Online colleges make progress in fight against cheating

Colleges and universities have evidence showing that online programs are adopting academic integrity policies and authenticating web-based test takers in large numbers.

Many schools don’t use technology to monitor exam takers.

Cheating in online college classes, long a point of criticism for those skeptical of online education’s legitimacy, is being addressed at more than 75 percent of institutions that have adopted academic integrity policies for those nontraditional courses, according to a report released Dec. 16 by WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies.

The report, “Managing Online Education 2013,” is the latest in WICHE’s effort to gauge how institutions are addressing online education’s most pressing issues, such as measuring completion rates, providing support for online faculty and students, and the development of quality course content.

Top 3 solutions to cheating in online education

Cheating in online education has become an issue of legislative interest in recent years. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 and subsequent rule making included a regulation requiring accrediting agencies to make sure colleges were verifying students’ identity.

The report found that more than three in four colleges had established an academic integrity policy, and four in 10 had used various technologies to authenticate student test takers, ensuring students were who they said they were before and during exams.

Fourteen percent of respondents to the WICHE survey said they had “partially” adopted an anti-cheating policy for online programs, and 7 percent said they had done nothing to address academic integrity.

Using biometrics — technologies that recognize a student’s fingerprint, for instance — cameras, and challenge questions has become more common in recent years, though 36 percent of schools said they didn’t use any form of technology to authenticate exam takers.

Many of the colleges who didn’t use technology to monitor students still use proctoring services popular in the pre-internet days of distance education. Four in 10 institutions said they proctor test takers, while 35 percent do not, according to WICHE’s survey.

The integrity of online test takers extends well beyond traditional web-based college courses. Companies that manage massive open online courses (MOOCs) for universities have also sought solutions to the persistent integrity issue.

When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and edX roll out new MOOC completion certificates to accompany more involved and time consuming courses next fall, the university wants to use web cameras to make sure students who are receiving certificates are the ones who did the work.

“This is all an experiment,” said Steve Carson, external relations director at MIT OpenCourseWare. “We’re trying different things and looking at what learners are interested in– what kinds of certificates do they want, what kinds of programs are they pursuing.”

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