Online universities have emerged as commonplace as more students are looking for handy, flexible methods to earn ranges. They are especially popular among nontraditional college students, like new dad and mom who need to take classes at their tempo or complete-time experts who need to take nighttime guides to improve their careers.
Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit online university based totally in Salt Lake City, became based in 1997 through 19 governors of western U.S. States to create a professional team of workers. The college now serves folks that need to take online classes, grading them with a competency-based gadget that requires them to illustrate they’ve discovered the desired substances.
But how do educators make sure students aren’t dishonest their ways to ranges if all classes and assessments are conducted remotely? Maureen O’Brien, WGU’s director of evaluation administration, these days advised PYMNTS how the college verifies its college students and the way it balances the want for authentication readily of use.
Trust, But Verify
One of the most important forms of education-associated fraud is as simple as it’s miles normal: college students sending a person else to take exams for them. This type of fraud performed a large role in this yr’s broadly publicized university admission scandal. Wealthy parents took advantage of lax authentication procedures and paid surrogates as much as $ seventy-five,000 to take college admission tests for their children. This hassle is exacerbated in an internet surroundings, in which identity techniques cannot be bodily checked by personnel.
WGU utilizes several methods to make sure check-takers are who they say they’re.
“To get into the trying out, they log in with their sign-on credentials, [including] their unique consumer ID and password,” O’Brien said. “They have to expose a central authority-issued photo ID [to a proctor on a webcam], and the name has to match the name within the scholar account.”
Students can without problems offer that statistics to accomplices; however, that means also verification measures are necessary. WGU used to depend upon keystroke biometrics, which verifies users by way of studying typing patterns and pass-referencing them with college students’ amassed records. O’Brien stated that this application had many flaws and did now not suit the university’s wishes, resulting in its termination.
“We got a whole lot of false positives, as it turned out humans typing once they’re now not careworn [exhibit] different behavior from after they’re burdened,” she said.
The university began utilizing a webcam-primarily based system in 2015. WGU students have issued an external webcam that they’re required to apply in preference to their laptops’ built-in cameras. The cameras meet certain dimensions and specifications, enabling proctors to screen test-takers, affirm their identities, and make sure they’re not cheating.
“We agree with the external webcam gives us the best view of the trying out environment,” O’Brien stated. “First, the proctor greets the pupil. Then, they do a 360-diploma test of the surroundings, so the scholars can’t have notes published up at the wall.”
Digicam’s audio is also important in the prevention of cheating. Proctors can pay attention to what’s going on inside the test-taker’s surroundings and make sure that the student doesn’t have an off-screen accomplice telling them the solutions.
“The proctor can listen what’s happening inside the room,” O’Brien said. “If there’s a few disturbance or some thing, the proctor can usually halt the examination and inquire with the student or do a further test.”
Authentication precautions like those may additionally lead to greater secure checks, but they also can make already stressful conditions even extra taxing.
“We don’t need it to be intrusive or traumatic,” O’Brien said. “We’re always … [making] certain that it’s a continuing and first-class revel in for the students. As exceptional as it could be, anyway, because they’re certainly inclined even as they’re being examined.”
WGU’s Take a Break program, which earned a Nonprofit Innovation Award from the U.S. Distance Learning Association, reduces pressure on students through allowing them to take one 10-minute smash each hour with out compromising security. Students in want of a spoil click a button that alerts the proctor, which blocks get entry to to the examination for the following 10 mins and stops them from having access to questions they already spoke back or skipped.
“You can’t burst off, take a wreck, have a look at, go returned and answer a question,” O’Brien defined. “[The program] at the start got here out of an accessibility requirement; however all of our students gain from it.”
Verification Through Stylometry
WGU is looking into several technologies to stability verification quite simply of use, a priority for the college. Facial and voice recognition might cross an extended way towards presenting seamless verification methods. However, O’Brien believes the ultimate intention is verification through the check substances.
“Some sort of stylometry analysis would be fantastic – with the intention to recognize that, sure, that is constant with how this pupil has been writing,” O’Brien said. “You will count on by using the quit of their degree software they could be advanced from how they started out-out, but there would probably be nevertheless a sure basic fashion that you may say, yes, that’s them.”
Individual stylometry evaluation remains just a dream, but as technology grows extra superior, it is probably the important thing to seamless person verification