Higher Education Reauthorization of the Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :



The camera that is used at Troy, which is made by Massachusetts-based Software Secure, eventually could monitor all of Troy University's distance learners. And while some might see this kind of test monitoring as intrusive, the new higher-education law could make such devices commonplace in online learning programs nationwide. Legislation necessitating greater accountability for distance-education programs has been in lawmakers' sights for several years. And college officials haven't been surprised with the legislation that has been unveiled. While online programs should solidify their test-verification policies, cutting-edge technology could face fierce opposition among students and university faculty (Carter, 2008).

There has been a lot of concern that has come along with the new monitoring technology. People often feel like these systems are rather intrusive, and they raise questions of privacy. Each institution is going to have different ways of dealing with this issue. Most institutions feel that since students pay their own tuition to go to school that it would be somewhat ludicrous for someone to cheat for you. It's counterproductive to why they are enrolling in the first place (Carter, 2008).

Officials at Western Governors University (WGU), an online university based in Salt Lake City, Utah, believe that their current proctoring and monitoring policies satisfy those outlined in the law. The university which has 11,000 students, all taking online classes has strict monitoring of all exams. They feel that this is the only way students could prove their college education was equivalent to their on-campus peers. The law says that they have to be sure the individual who is taking the test is who they say they are and they believe that they already do that (Carter, 2008).

WGU has 220 evaluators that are charged with detecting plagiarism or other forms of cheating. One evaluator, known as the cheater chaser has been trained on how to find students who have violated school policies such as buying an essay or term paper from unscrupulous web sites. WGU officials are considering purchasing keystroke technology and web cameras that will allow students to take exams from home. But currently, the university has more than 3,000 proctor sites nationwide, usually within 30 miles of a student's house (Carter, 2008).

Blackboard Inc. A global leader in education technology, recently announced the general availability of an integrated solution for enhanced student identity verification, powered by technology from Acxiom Corporation. The Acxiom Identify-X service allows colleges and universities to deploy an enhanced verification program that integrates seamlessly with the Blackboard Learn platform and does not interrupt the learning process. Instructors are in control of when, where and how frequently they verify student identity while maintaining the integrity and privacy of student information. The service does not require institutions to purchase any additional hardware or software (Blackboard Launches Solution for Enhanced Student Identity Verification, 2009).

Institutions will be provided with a limited number of free verifications based on their total student enrollment and Blackboard license. The majority of institutions choose not to verify every student for every assessment. Instead they use random verification of test takers to ensure that the process does not become predictable, burdensome or cost prohibitive. The process does not require the release of student information, thereby avoiding any potential issues with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Blackboard Launches Solution for Enhanced Student Identity Verification, 2009).

Following students login to the Blackboard platform and access a course assessment, Acxiom's technology will periodically and randomly present real-time challenge questions that only the enrolled student will know how to answer. The likelihood of students being required to verify their identity may be determined by instructors at the course level or system administrators at the institutional level (Blackboard Launches Solution for Enhanced Student Identity Verification, 2009).

Additional software that is being used is that of FactCheck-X. This software requires test takers to answer detailed, personal challenge questions. The information for the questions comes from a variety of databases, and the company uses it to ask for old addresses or previous employers. This tool requires no hardware and operates within most testing environments. Colleges control how frequently students are asked to verify their identities (Is That Online Student Who He Says He Is, 2008).

Institutions are using a variety of methods in order to verify the identities of distance learners in order to comply with the new federal law. Some are only verifying logins and passwords while other are implanting new devices and software. For now the government has left it up to the colleges as to how they comply with the law so long as they are complying. Institutions have to deal with complying with the federal law while trying to keep costs down. It is also important that they keep students privacy in mind.

There are a couple of different technologies that are being explored by colleges in order to help them comply with the new federal law. One of these is a device that along with a web cam acts as a remote proctor. This concept works well but is still on the expensive side. Another idea is that of software that is installed to randomly verify a student's identity by asking random questions to the student that only they would know the answers to. This concept is a lot more cost effective and does not require the student to buy anything. All of these ideas work to satisfy the requirements that have been set down by the federal law.

References

ACE Analysis of Higher Education Act Reauthorization. (2008). Retrieved January 19, 2010,

from American Council on Education Web site: http://www.acenet.edu/e-newsletters/p2p/ACE_HEA_analysis_818.pdf

Blackboard Launches Solution for Enhanced Student Identity Verification. (2009). Retrieved

January 19, 2010, from Blackboard Web site:

http://www.blackboard.com/Company/Media-Center/Press-Releases.aspx?releaseid=1310692

Carter, Dennis. (2008). New law aims to validate online learning. Retrieved January 19, 2010,

from e School News Web site: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2008/09/15/new-law-aims-

to-validate-online-learning/

Foster, Andrea L. (2009). New Systems Keep a Close Eye on Online Students at Home.

Education Digest. 74(7), p45-47.

Is That Online Student Who He Says He Is? (2008). Retrieved January 19, 2010, from The

Chronicle of Higher Education Web site: http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Is-That-Online-

Student-Who-He/4372/

Littlefield, Jamie. (2008). How the College Opportunity and Affordability Act Affects Online

Students. Retrieved January 19, 2010, from About.com Web site:

http://distancelearn.about.com/od/onlinecourses/tp/2008_Online_Learning.htm

Methods to Verify the Identity of Distance Learning Students. (n.d.). Retrieved January 19, 2010,

from Web site: http://www.acxiom.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/website-resources/pdf/White_Papers/AC-0031-09_DistanceLearningStudentsWP.pdf

New Distance Education Requirements of the Higher Education Act of 2008 Require Immediate

Implementation. (2008). Retrieved January 19, 2010, from http://207.62.192.204/~jond/ohlone/DE/DE_10_13_08_meeting/New_Distance_Educatio

n_Requirements.rtf

Parry, Marc. (2009). Online Educators Won't Have to Spy on Students, New Rules Say. Retrieved

January 19, 2010, from The Chronicle of Higher Education Web site:

http://chronicle.com/article/Online-Educators-Wont-Have/47291/

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