The number of online courses being offered to students grows seemingly by the day. These courses offer students a level of convenience and flexibility in their schedule, while also enabling the university to reach beyond its on-campus population.
For all their benefits, however, online courses remain largely unregulated when it comes to identity proofing and academic dishonesty. Now, The Daily Targum — Rutgers University’s student paper — says that students at are expressing their distaste for a new online course monitoring program instituted by the university designed to eradicate cheating.
The program in question is ProctorTrack, a system that uses facial recognition technology, biometrics and machine learning to construct scans of the student’s face, knuckles and ID. In addition to the biometric element of the solution, ProctorTrack features continuous monitoring of the user’s mouse, keyboard, monitor, browser, webcam and microphone to ensure the student doesn’t use a substitute test taker or other resources to cheat.
Part of the issue for Rutgers students is that the use of the system was not made known to students prior to signing up for the online courses. Moreover, the article suggests that students are unsure if ProctorTrack efficiently secures recorded student data, stating further that the system’s security measures are not made clear.
Verificient Technologies, the company behind ProctorTrack hosted a presentation at Rutgers earlier in the year discussing the importance of identity verification in online courses. There it was explained that ProctorTrack can detect when students leave their work space, search online for additional resources, look at hard notes, consult with other people or are replaced by another person during a test.
The issue here is understandably two sided. On the one hand, universities have to know that the person receiving credit for an online course is in fact the person actually completing the coursework and exams. Without this key element, a university’s online curriculum is left suspect. The overwhelming popularity of online courses has made verifying the identity of students and preserving the academic integrity and reputation of the university a requirement.
On the other hand, there is the need to strike a balance between identity verification and student experience — part of which is properly notifying and informing students of the procedures surrounding online coursework.
This is an issue that likely won’t be solved overnight, but as more students take advantage of the flexibility that online courses provide, the burden of identity verification only grows.