Taking a university exam from home, under the watchful eye of a webcam, with software profiling your keystrokes is the equally good manner of gaining an education, as if going to college or university.
Online university courses are the Next Big Thing for higher education This trend is present in many developed and developing countries. It is particularly spread in the US where millions of students have signed up for courses at the numerous online educational facilities and gain different educational degrees via distance learning.
The online university is a way of spreading education to many more people for much less money. But, apart from all convenience that the distance learning offers, there are several other things that need to be considered in order to have the level of knowledge gained online, on the same level as the knowledge gained in the classical classroom.
In this enthusiastic and convenient new educational era, the major stumbling block is the issues of how such digital courses are assessed.
When students are at home, passing exams online, how do you know whether they are cheating?
In order to have the online courses gaining value, they need a credible way of accessing students and an important part of that is preventing fraud. There is no doubt that this is the ‘web moment’ for higher education and a battle is shaping up for growing student numbers on global courses online.
There is no reason to think why would not the people, who want to pass easier and have a diploma the fastest possible, try to manipulate the online system. If the main purpose of attending a course or a lecture is gaining knowledge, then it goes without saying that when a student cheats on the exam, he or she cheats himself or herself. But still, apart from the moral, measures need to be taken to prevent misuse of online education benefits.
- Formally supervised on-screen exams, using the website are a good option in resolving this matter. The students who pass will receive a “proctor certificate”, showing it has been achieved in an invigorated setting.
- With enough randomly generated questions, it will be possible to grade the work of tens of thousands of students at different times around the world. Students like the instant feedback of testing, as well as the interactive, multimedia online lectures that make the old-style lectures look less effective. This volume of testing depends on automated marking – and means a limit on the range of subjects and type of questions that can be examined.
What cannot be achieved with the computer checking of the exams is the evaluation of the psychological and emotional essence of the exam. For example the computer is going to ˝struggle˝ to mark an essay on any first day at school, or latest boyfriend or girlfriend break up topics.
- The increasing number of online students imposes also the question of having a large number of students reliably marked. Automatic marking can generate a score or a grade, but students want human feedback for certain subjects. There is no technology that can judge whether an essay has really connected with a question. Any software for assessing free-text answers requires a large amount of human intervention. Peer assessment, where students grade each others’ work, following guidelines set by the teacher allows the marking capacity to grow with the class size, but it also depends on the reliability of fellow students.
These type of online courses are also being discussed online and blogs from students refer to disagreements over marking.
How do you know the identity of the person answering the questions?
The debate to an old fashioned and low-tech form of preventing cheating should have an ethical approach, based on a promise to maintain academic honesty. This really works and institutions with such a code have a lower level of cheating.
Keystroke measurements and iris recognition could verify a student’s identity, so this can be resolved easy. It will be easily established whether the student taking the exam is the student enrolled in the course.
One who wants to learn should always bear in mind the saying:
“I would prefer even to fail with honour than to win by cheating.”