Friday, May 6, 2011

Academic Integrity in Distance Education

How do we know who are students are when we teach online, and more importantly, how do we ensure that those enrolled are those who are submitting the required work and sitting for exams?

The federal government and members of Congress have taken a sharp examination of distance education as it relates to fraud and integrity. As a result, federal policy has been enacted to step-up oversight requirements to combat fraud, especially as it relates to federal student aid. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education’s recognized accreditation agencies oblige institutions of higher education to provide documentation on how they comply with federal policy verifying student identity and academic integrity. In particular, accrediting agencies are concerned with how institutions implement the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) that was signed into law August 14, 2008.

The particulars of this policy stipulate that accrediting bodies require institutions that deliver distance education establish a systematic approach to verify that a student enrolled in a distance education course is the same student who submits assignments, takes exams, and receives credit. The HEOA also specifies that institutions employ a system of secure login and passwords or proctored exams as a means to verify student identity. Policy makers recognize that this is a newly emerging area in media and security and that there are costs involved. As such, HEOA does not specify narrow or exacting language that places a financial burden upon education institutions as they implement these new policies.

In response to federal policy and accrediting oversight, the education industry has explored solutions to these specific questions and offers various strategies to verify student identity and safeguard academic integrity in the distance learning environment. Some popular solutions include software to detect plagiarism by checking submitted papers against databases, secure web browsers, secure login and password protected exams, encrypted test question banks, identity prompting within exams based upon public domain data banks, and secure proctoring facilities. At the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) we have several solutions to help faculty who deliver online education, these include: Respondus lockdown browser, Acxiom, SafeAssign, and secure LDap password authentication. Moreover, we are committed to ensuring that our distance education courses align to the same high level of academic integrity as our face-to-face courses.

Question: Do you believe there is a greater likelihood of fraud and cheating in distance education than in traditional face-to-face education?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.