Learner Authentication and Testing Integrity Deemed Strong Threat to Reputation of Online Higher Education

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SmarterServices' 2016 survey reveals profound insights into common proctoring methods’ impact on the future of eLearning.

Results of 2016 survey report illustrated

“At the end of the day, we can see the good, the bad, and the ugly associated with each and every proctoring modality. A single method is not sufficient."

SmarterServices LLC, provider of eLearning applications, released the findings of its 2016 Annual Proctoring/ Learner Authentication Survey, authored by its president, Dr. Mac Adkins, conducted in January and February of this year. The survey collected perception data from 365 participants: test center administrators, faculty, school administrators, learners, and proctors.

In a previous study conducted by The Josephson Institute on Ethics, 23,000 American high school and college students were surveyed about cheating. Over half (51%) admitted to cheating on an exam at least once in the past academic year. This statistic confirms the need to foster a culture of academic integrity; SmarterServices’ survey sought to collect perception data for the purpose of improving testing integrity.

To guard against unethical behavior and improve academic integrity, many schools use services that authenticate learner identity and monitor student performance during examinations. At the same time, this survey uncovered that most faculty and school administrators perceive learner authentication and testing integrity to be substantial threats to the reputation and quality of online higher education.

In other words, learner authentication and testing integrity services must be used intelligently to successfully monitor and guard against cheating in order to protect the future of online learning. To forward this mission, the SmarterServices’ survey looked at perceptions of the most common proctoring modalities: approved human proctor, local test centers, instructor as proctor, and live/virtual.

Every academic institution determines which proctoring modalities it sanctions. Faculty members can often then determine which of those methods will be extended to respective students. Of those options provided, the learner can then make a selection based on his or her preferences. With this in mind, participants were asked to share perceptions surrounding which proctoring models they considered to be the strongest and weakest forms of psychological deterrent against cheating. Key findings include:

  • Faculty perceive an instructor proctored exam as being the strongest psychological deterrent to cheating and virtual proctoring as the weakest.
  • Students perceive an approved human proctor to be the strongest form of psychological deterrent and automated and virtual proctoring as the weakest but also most preferred modality.
  • Students report that it would be the most difficult to cheat with an instructor as proctor.
  • Factors influencing student proctoring preferences include comfort and convenience over cost.

Many factors, however, complicate the issue of which proctoring modality to use when weighing risk (of cheating) and reward (benefits of specific proctoring model). For example, a higher stakes exam, like a final exam, should warrant the most stringent security measures regardless of cost or convenience; whereas, a test in an introductory course represents lower stakes outcomes.

Another example which illustrates the need to weigh risk against reward is: Most often, the student is responsible for paying any fees associated with proctoring. The average fee for an exam proctoring session is $25.00, whereas a virtual session averages a cost of $6.00. The less expensive option is also the most convenient for the student, but it offers a potentially less secure proctoring method.

“At the end of the day, we can see the good, the bad, and the ugly associated with each and every proctoring modality,” explains survey author, Dr. Mac Adkins. “A single method is not sufficient. Instead, a toolbox of modalities should be used—the appropriate modality selected on a case-by-case basis with the full context of testing scenario and course curriculum in mind.”

Today, only one platform exists which can manage the entire proctoring workflow for multiple modalities—SmarterProctoring™. This solution, one of SmarterServices data-driven eLearning applications, provides an LMS integrated service that provides multiple levels of configuration that allow an institution to pick, choose, and offer preferred proctoring options and modalities.

To download the 2016 Annual Proctoring Learner Authentication Survey, visit smarterservices.com.

For more about SmarterProctoring™, visit SmarterProctoring.com.

About SmarterServices, LLC
SmarterServices™ offers a suite of eLearning applications that empower nearly 600 educational institutions—K-12 schools, colleges, universities—to organize and analyze relevant data about students, teachers, employees, and curriculum. Our data-driven solutions include online student readiness assessments, standardized and custom course evaluations, exam proctoring management, and faculty recruiting. As a result, clients can more intelligently form strategic plans, maximize efficiency, and foster formative learning. Since 2002, over 3.5 million students have benefited from SmarterServices.

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Julie Owen
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