Whatever happened to Accountability? Bring the Teacher Back into the Online Classroom
I recently saw this article, Online Exam Proctoring Catches Cheaters, Raises Concerns, and it got me thinking about the nature of distance learning programs and how the identity of a student is verified if they take an online course. The article address ethical concerns of virtual proctoring tools such as HonorLock, Examity, Respondus Monitor, ProctorU, and ProctorTrack. In a nutshell, the business model of these vendors is to record students, via their webcam, while they take an online exam. Why?
Virtual proctoring holds the online student accountable
- Virutal proctoring services verify the identity of a student – similar to how you’d use a student ID to enter a physical building while on-campus. Except now you’ll show that same student ID to gain access to a purely virtual classroom.
- Virtual proctoring prevents the online student from using unauthorized materials. This means instructors offer a closed-book exam in their online course. It also prevents students from looking up answers on Google.
Many colleges are techy and innovative and already are using virtual proctoring services to improve academic integrity in the online classroom. And other schools just use the honor system, hoping that the student that registered and paid for the course is the same student that actually completes the course work. Because there’s so much potential to scam the system, this isn’t sufficient. There’s already lots of financial aid fraud that directly affects your taxes. Plus, it’s not right that students can cheat their way through entire online degrees. This article, The thriving Russian black market in dissertations, sums up the scope of cheating in that country, where it’s the norm for students to purchase entire dissertations.
Isn’t there always a way to cheat?
Of course there is. And that’s exactly why we have people go though security at airports. For better or worse, we use policing and surveillance technology and procedures to prevent crime.
There’s always going to be ways to scam the testing system: purchase an essay from a paper mill or use a spy cams built-in to a smart watch. Regardless, schools need to educate students to understand the nature of academic integrity, as well take measures to prevent academic integrity violations. The idea isn’t anything new, even students in high school submit essays into a plagiarism detection software, such as TurnItIn.com.
Be Honest: Did you ever have an open book test when you were in high school?
I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2012. Since I enjoyed the interaction with other students and my professors, I mainly took in-person classes.
And frankly, I never had an open book quiz in college. I simply studied for an exam and prayed that I didn’t forget everything when I showed up to take the exam.
The Internet has really destroyed the validity of examinations, since you can Google the answers or pay someone that’s more knowledgeable to take the exam for you.
But it’s 2018, in real jobs you can always Google things that you don’t know
True, sometimes. Depends on the job and circumstances. At a job interview, you’re not going to get the opportunity to pull out your iPhone to research the answer your interviewer asked you. You’re going to be expected to answer the question on the spot.
Graduates should have certain requisite skills memorized, so they can talk the talk, and be consciously competent. If you’re a web design major, you should know how write an anchor element without looking up generic source code online. If you’re a nurse, you better be able to properly administer the proper dosages of medication to patients; otherwise, you could harm a patient.
So what can educators do to verify students are actually learning?
As educators, we can and need to DO BETTER. There’s non-technical ways to better prove competency and verify identity. For example: a recorded final presentation, that shows the student’s face. It’s pretty tricky to fake a presentation – you really need to know your stuff and present it well.
It’s no secret: the answers to multiple choice questions will easily pop up on Quizzlet, especially canned questions from textbook publishers that are recycled over and over again. Educators need to require more writing assignments and project based assessments, which are higher on the pyramid of Bloom’s taxonomy.
And teachers need to constantly update their curriculum, so that answers can’t be shared between student in future classes.
I really wonder when, or if, virtual proctoring will be required. There’s simply no accountability otherwise. If colleges offer online degrees and want to maintain their reputation, they need to use some type of virtual proctoring technology to prove the student that paid for the class is the one doing the work. A simple username and password doesn’t suffice.
But I don’t wanna to be recorded!
Is it awkward to be virtually proctored? Sure, it’s a bit creepy. It’s literally Big Brother watching. But it starts to provide parity between the online and physical classroom. And that should be a major goal of any school offering online classes.
And let’s be honest – most people gave up caring about their privacy years ago. We’re constantly recorded while in stores, Alexa listens to your conversations, and Facebook sells ALL of your private inforamtion to advertisers. Yet we still go out in public and use Amazon and Facebook. And let’s not forget about the USA PATRIOT Act.
It is a bit intrusive? Perhaps. But If you went on campus, your instructor would be watching students take the exam. Some schools have always required high stake exam to be completed at official testing centers. Students are going to complain, but this is the age of convenience. And it’s a lot easier to launch a virtual proctoring tool from the comfort of your home, than driving on-campus or getting frisked at a local testing center.
Bring the teacher back into the online classroom, or become irrelevant to MOOCs
Maybe when the Higher Education Act is updated, the law will find ways to require AND PROVE substantive interaction between the online instructor and students. Many schools have completely discussion board driven conversations. I’ve never attended a class in-person where a conversation was completely driven by students.
We need to bring the instructor back into the online classroom. Maybe regional accreditation bodies should get up with the times and require online instructors to offer virtual office hours and have a scheduled, synchronous discussion with students about the subject matter. Otherwise, it’s truly just a web-based correspondence course.
I’ll admit, it’s a bit intrusive. But students generally agree that this type of technology solution promotes academic integrity in online courses.
Questions to consider:
- How can schools better provide parity between the online and face-to-face classroom?
- What technical and non-technical solutions are available to improve academic integrity in the online classroom?
- How much real-time interaction should be required in online classes? Are purely asynchronous online classes an effective learning method?
- Are virtual proctoring services a violation of privacy? Should all online colleges be required to use these types of services? If so, in how many courses? Only those with outcome assessments, or each and every online course?
- As a teacher or student, have you ever used a virtual proctoring service? What did you think of the experience?