Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How To Limit Cheating In Online Courses

The privacy nuts are howling at the moon, of course, but no one's required to take online courses. They could take courses and tests in person, if they want.

This fall, Troy University in Alabama will begin rolling out the new camera technology for many of its approximately 11,000 online students, about a third of whom are at U.S. military installations around the world.

The device, made by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Software Secure, is similar in many respects to other test-taking software. It locks down a computer while the test is being taken, preventing students from searching files or the Internet. The latest version also includes fingerprint authentication, to help ensure the person taking the test isn't a ringer.

But the new development is a small Web cam and microphone that is set up where a student takes the exam. The camera points into a reflective ball, which allows it to capture a full 360-degree image. (The first prototype was made with a Christmas ornament.)

When the exam begins, the device records audio and video. Software detects significant noises and motions and flags them in the recording. An instructor can go back and watch only the portions flagged by the software to see if anything untoward is going on -- a student making a phone call, leaving the room -- and if there is a sudden surge in performance afterward.

Sounds most interesting, and a reasonable attempt to limit the massive opportunities for cheating that accompany online testing.


Tony said...

I read about this earlier today and you're right, it does sound like a pretty reasonable technological solution to a fairly pervasive problem.

KauaiMark said...

So...the kid has a 2nd wireless laptop out ot sight of the camera to do internet searches on.

If I can "thunk" that one up in less than a munute, I'm sure more clever ways will be thunked to beat the system...

Darren said...

You didn't read about the Christmas ornament. It's pretty cool.

Sure, there might be ways to defeat it, but at some point they become harder than the course itself.