As online classes move into the realm of acceptable educational tender, a cheating prevention system has become all the more necessary. Coursera, one of the largest online education providers, has announced its decision to evaluate several of its courses to determine whether they should be made available for college credit — raising the stakes all the higher. None of the major online providers have found technology that is completely foolproof, but technology blog GigaOM suggests some tools that can certainly make cheating more difficult.
Remote live proctoring
With the help of services such as ProctorCam, ProctorU and Remote Proctor Now, and a webcam, a proctor can watch one — or several — online test takers at once remotely as they take the exam. The proctors have the ability to monitor several students simultaneously using split screens, and in fact, the ratio of proctor to student is higher than it would be in a live setting because of the limitations of the split screen.
Remote web proctoring
It’s the same as remote live proctoring, but without the live person. Instead, this method uses the webcam to record the student taking the test for the professor’s later perusal. Offered by companies like McGraw-Hill and Kryterion, as well as others, the service allows the instructor to review footage in cases where cheating might have occurred. And its usefulness is not restricted to tests; using the technology for quizzes, group projects and other activities gives professors an additional window into their students’ work process.
Though a webcam with a watchful proctor on the other end can certainly catch many kinds of cheating, it cannot see perhaps the most popular method — Google. A service like Respondus locks down browsers so that students can only see what is necessary to complete the test. Of course, students can circumvent the technology fairly easily using a browser on their phones or another computer, or even just talking to a friend in the room. But coupling it with remote proctoring technology, as many universities have already done, could resolve many of the issues with cheating that online education faces.
Keystroke pattern recognition
On the more high-tech side of things is software that can accurately identify students by their typing patterns. Such technology — which, according to research from Pace University, is accurate 99.5 percent of the time — essentially eliminates the possibility of somebody else taking a test for a student. Students can still be fed answers, but again, if paired with the webcam, the browser control, or both, it can be extremely effective in thwarting cheaters.
Plagiarism detection technology
Plagiarism has been around far longer than any online class, and the obstacles in combating it are not so different in an online setting. Brick-and-mortar schools have used technology to weed out plagiarism for years now, and online course providers have followed suit. For example, 2U, which partners with several leading universities to provide masters degrees, uses TurnItIn to monitor student work. But others have learned the hard way. After dozens of plagiarism incidents were reported on its platform last summer, Coursera said it was considering implementing plagiarism technology software. TurnItIn is the most widely used program — it received more than 60 million submissions last year — but there are other similar services, including PlagiarismDetect and Viper.