Hi, I’m Dan Burrows. No, actually I’m Chase Larson. Ok, in reality I’m Suzy Patrick. I have been asked a LOT lately about how schools are going to deal with the new Higher Education Act of 2008. There is a very small paragraph in the 1200 page document that gives schools using the Internet a new directive. Prove that your students are who they say they are…
Ok, so forget the 27 year old student from a large, prestigious, R-1 institution I met on a plane who told me about how he paid for college by pretending to be rich kids. He would take the entire semester as that person, turning in work, taking tests, etc. Only one instructor in 8 years asked for ID which was easy enough to fake – school IDs aren’t Driver’s licenses after all. And, forget about the statistics that show ALL students (K-20) are cheating in record numbers on tests, papers, etc. Forget that any on-ground student could have a brother write a paper, a sister take a test, or a friend create a portfolio. And don’t get me started on twins!!! (Evil mimeographs…)
How would the Government like schools to do this? Of course, there will be entrepreneurs who will come to the rescue! It will cost a boat load of money, but they’ll try to help.
For example, one company uses credit-based questions for online students. When you login to the class or a test, the message says, ”You claim to be Jeff Borden. Jeff Borden lived at one of the following 4 addresses. Which one?”
Or another company that is using webcam technology to randomly capture images of students in a testing situation. They compare the instant photos to known photos of the students taken during registration and see if someone else is taking the test.
Of course both of these are easily cheatable for someone who really wants to. Just sit off camera or have the real person answer the questions as their friend types in the answers…
Another company feels they have it figured out. They provide a small globe that looks like a mini-disco ball. It captures finger prints, has a webcam, and a microphone. If anything unusual happens in the vicinity of the camera, finger prints are asked for, images are taken, and sounds are recorded. Big Brother 2.0! (Securexam – the company with the ball – costs the student about $150)
Other companies are using algorithms around student typing or average speed of answer to check for problems.
Some teachers have tried to figure things out on their own. A few phone calls throughout the term helps them determine if a person really understands the concepts they claim to. Checking for patterns with writing styles and skills in math are how some instructors are bridging the gap.
But ultimately it comes down to this. People will always cheat. You can make it as hard as you want, but people will do it. Remember the group who helped doctoral candidates cheat on the GRE? Encoded pencils gave answers to the paper based, highly secured test for years before they found out. (I wonder how my doctor did on his entrance exams…?)
People will always find a way around the rules. There is a group of people who cheat just for the thrill of cheating! Others are so pressured from various places they feel it necessary. And on and on…why people cheat is another blog article.
I guess I’m trying to say to Congress…take it easy. Policing is just going to cost a lot of money and make a lot of people who finally have access to education fail. Let’s look at real answers and solutions, not just knee jerk reactions to fear. It doesn’t have to be like that!
Ok…soap box #1 out of the way for 2009. Hope you enjoyed the rant. See you next week when I tackle the financial rescue package…
Want to hear more about online education? Interested in real solutions to cheating and plagiarism? Contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!