Educators Tackle Online Cheating Head-On

Educational tools and techniques have certainly progressed with technology, and college students are witnesses of that progress firsthand. Everything from digital online textbooks to online assignment submission programs are used daily by students and educators. However, with these technological progressions comes something not surprising to many: high-tech cheating.

Far away are the days when students would simply write answers to tests on their tennis shoes and palms. Advancing with technology, cheaters have found new and creative ways to bypass the work and time necessary to receive good grades and a degree. Though cheating takes place in both online and in-class settings, online courses have been the topic of discussion and examination as of late because of this option’s growing popularity at colleges and universities across the nation.

Online courses have spurned new avenues to cheat; quizzes and tests are taken unsupervised and with the very tool every cheater dreams to have at his or her a finger tips: a computer. Not only do students have easy access to a huge amount of information, but few, if any, institutions have a means for remotely confirming students’ identities; many educators never meet their online students, let alone have the ability to confirm that their students are the ones completing the required course work.

But it’s not as though educators haven’t made efforts to prevent cheating. Quite to the contrary, many tests and quizzes are timed and challenge students with questions chosen at random from a question bank. Colleges also often use systems like TurnItIn.com, which detects sentences plagiarized based on its database of billions of Web pages and millions of student papers and publications. However, the cheating continues and adapts to new technologies and preventative barriers.

As the problem has become more apparent, new preventative measures have been and are continuing to be created, according to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. For instance, one program for potential development is being researched by Senior Director of Technology Evangelism at Blackboard, John Fontaine. The program will detect plagiarism in students’ papers based on a document fingerprint created from the first few times students submit a paper. Fontaine found that individuals write in such a way that is unique to them and, thus, after a fingerprint is established, the system he hopes to create would recognize plagiarism in future papers that deviate from a student’s document fingerprint.

Of course, this is only one of the many techniques educators are entertaining. A few other interesting ideas being discussed are facial-recognition programs, fingerprint scans, and online video monitoring. If students don’t view cheating themselves out of their education as a deterrent, they should view the fast path educators are on to prevent and catch cheaters as a serious one. Not being caught once doesn’t mean that students won’t be caught in the future, and this especially true of the constantly-changing world of technology used by educational institutions.

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