Online courses give colleges and universities an opportunity to meet students where they are, abandoning the traditional classroom setup and creating new levels of flexibility. Massive open online courses have gone a step further, broadening the reach of institutions to a theoretically global scale. But when the purpose of higher education is to get a job, education can fall flat. And MOOCs can fall even flatter.
It’s all about standards and confidence. Many employers have lower confidence in skills gained through an online course than through a traditional on-campus class, especially if that campus is tied to an established, accredited, and renowned college.
“We believe that if we do everything right, our technology is the missing link needed to bring integrity to an online credential,” Dutta said.
Proctortrack’s customizable algorithm monitors online test-takers and course attendees to verify they are completing assignments and they are who they say they are on test day. Institutions can identify the rules for a testing environment — for example that test takers do not open internet browsers, leave the room in the middle of the test, or work with a cell phone within reach. Proctortrack will make sure the testing environment is within stated guidelines before the student can start an exam and scan for irregularities every second throughout the test.
Dutta said at the end of the exam, each student will receive an Integrity Score and instructors will get a report showing those scores, along with supporting evidence for any irregularities. Instructors can review video that includes the five seconds leading up to a flagged violation and then decide how to grade the student based on that information.
Once students understand the parameters of the software, Dutta said client institutions have found major decreases in the incidence of test policy breaches.
“The goal for us is to deter students from breaking those rules, not really to catch them,” Dutta said. “We catch them, and we do a good job doing that, but the goal is to deter.”
Proctortrack is not the only software of its kind. edX recently announced a plan for the Global Freshman Academy at Arizona State University using Software Secure. Like Proctortrack, Software Secure allows students to take online exams at any time from anywhere but Software Secure relies on individuals to review all of the test footage, rather than running on an algorithm to identify testing irregularities.
Another generation of online proctoring services, like ProctorU, require individuals to watch specific test-takers in real time, as they take the tests. At Arizona State University, more than 13,000 students take courses online through undergraduate and graduate degree programs. A spokeswoman said the university uses a three-pronged approach to promoting academic integrity — pedagogical, technology-based, and community-based. Technology-based options sometimes include proctor services, but not always. The community solutions ask students to commit to an honor code and discuss academic integrity. Instructors also build checks into course assignments by requiring abstracts with papers, having oral exams, or asking follow-up questions.
At ASU, administrators believe online students get the same rigorous academic experience and are held to the same high standards as their traditional on-campus peers. Both groups of students get the same diploma, in the end.
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