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Can cheating be prevented when courses are taken online?

Posting in Education

Online education has reached impressive new heights this year with prestigious universities like Stanford, Harvard, and MIT offering up their courses to the masses at no cost. But in order to impress future employers with certificates earned via digital classes, online programs will need to prove that their students are truly learning the material.

A major way to guarantee a program’s credibility is to ensure that its students aren’t cheating — a complicated task considering exams are taken in the comfort of a test-taker’s own home.

One solution? Remote test proctoring. Recent startup ProctorU specializes in the Big Brother-like activity by employing proctors to monitor students taking exams via webcams and screen-sharing software. The proctors, usually college students themselves, are paid by the hour and are trained to look out for “incidents” such as severed internet connections, another student entering the test-taker’s room, or the student taking a peek at a textbook.

MIT Technology Review reports:

More than 200 colleges and technical schools have hired ProctorU to administer tests that students can take at the same computers where they took their MOOCs [“Massive Open Online Courses”]—though ProctorU also oversees tests for traditional classes. “Almost every class now has an online component to it,” says Don Kassner, ProctorU’s CEO. “And some of these schools are realizing the logistics of scheduling 350 students into a class for a final exam is difficult.”

Proctors can also see an online student’s computer screen during test time and are there to remind test-takers not to consult Google if they’re stumped on a question.

Online proctoring doesn’t come without its hiccups — as even Kassner admits that proctors will often see things they wish they hadn’t — but preserving academic integrity will be a vital step in giving digitally-earned course credit some real world worth.

[via MIT Technology Review]

Image: Travis Isaacs/Flickr

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— By on November 18, 2012, 7:04 AM PST

Sarah Korones

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sarah Korones is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for Psychology Today and Boston's Weekly Dig. She holds a degree from Tufts University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure