Student Authentication in Higher Education-Assessment Auditing

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Welcome to the final entry in our 3-part series about student authentication and the implications for higher ed. Over the past few days, we have examed three distinct areas in which institutions of higher learning are having to take a closer look. Authorized Access, Active Authentication, and Assessment Auditing are critical in efforts to ensure academic integrity.

Assessment Auditing

Just as many people desire to lose weight, many schools desire to improve the culture of academic integrity at their schools.  Shortly after the HEOA guidelines were released, Eduventures conducted a survey of their members on which 90% of institutions indicated that they had made concentrated efforts to raise awareness of integrity issues among online students.  Academic integrity was reported as a priority in their distance learning program by 61% of respondents.  More than half of the institutions believed that their methods of authentication needed to improve.  Survey respondents also recommended that authentication methods be embedded in the learning management system.

In addition to the accountability that schools have through their accrediting agencies to be in compliance with this federal regulation, many states also have an additional regulation regarding academic integrity.  At the 27th Annual Meeting of WCET in November 2014, speakers from four different schools reported on regulations related to academic integrity.  It was reported that since 2014, 31 states have passed student data privacy laws with 110 bills being introduced in 2014 and 182 bills being introduced in 2015.  The major themes of these new state regulations are data security, transparency, collection, and use.  Just like losing weight is a challenge, one of the challenges for higher education leaders is to balance privacy and innovation.

In the article titled “An Update on Student Authentication: Implementation in Context” authored by Lori McNabb for the Continuing Higher Education Review, she presented the following key questions which higher education leaders should consider when implementing a comprehensive learner authentication solution such as SmarterID.

  • Will the technology be used as a preventative approach, controlling student access to course items?
  • Will the technology be used as a policing approach, gathering data on student behaviors?
  • When will a student’s initial profile be created—as a part of the application process, when admitted, with a financial aid application, when enrolled in an online course, or when first accessing the learning management system, or other?
  • How frequently will a student be authenticated?
  • Is the frequency a set number of times based on the number of courses in which a student is enrolled, the number of times a student takes a specific action (e.g., logging into a learning management system), or some other criterion?
  • When will a student be authenticated—logging in to the learning management system, participating in a discussion board, accessing an assessment item, or another situation?
  • How will the data from the authentication technology be used in the disciplinary process?
  • Who will determine the meaning of the data about a student?
  • On what basis will cheating be determined?
  • Issues related to technology integration will also need to be addressed. For example, if only students in fully online courses will be authenticated, but both online and hybrid courses are in the learning management system, there has to be a process in place to identify fully online courses and assign the use of the technology to just those courses.

An additional consideration when implementing a learner authentication tool such as SmarterID is the following clause in the federal regulation – The institution must “use processes that protect student privacy and notify students of any projected additional charges associated with the verification of student identity at the time of registration or enrollment.”  SmarterID assists institutions in being in compliance with the regulation by providing a simple pricing plan based on volume that provides an annual, per-student flat fee.  Schools are then able to determine if they will fund this cost from a fee assessed to the student or absorb the cost into other fees collected from the student.  As SmarterID evolves it will be able to accept payment for the fee directly from the student if needed.  In this case to be compliant the school must inform the student of this additional fee early in the student experience.  SmarterID also helps schools be in compliance with the policy by providing verbiage that they can provide to the student to explain the student authentication process including any costs to the student as well as provide information relative to student privacy.  The SmarterServices Privacy Policy and Terms of Use explain what data is collected, how it is stored, how it is used, and who all has access to the data in compliance with FERPA policies.

Having students periodically utilize different proctoring modalities is also a good strategy for fostering a culture of academic integrity. 

While multiple virtual proctoring technologies are available, it is still a good practice to occasionally have a learner report to a testing center or proctoring professional in their area for a face-to-face exam.  SmarterProctoring is the first and only multi-modal proctoring management system which allows students to register for proctoring across seven different proctoring modalities including testing centers, proctoring professionals and virtual proctoring.  A database of 3000+ proctoring persons/locations provides proctoring services within the vicinity of a majority of students in the United States.

The decision to implement a plan to foster academic integrity which factors in authorized access, active authentication and assessment auditing calls for an inclusive decision-making process.  The program to foster academic integrity must be congruent with the institution’s mission and be consistently applied through responsible instructional design.

If an emerging technology became available for losing weight and you used it with great success, you would want to tell others.  SmarterID is a new solution provided by SmarterServices and we would love to tell you more about how it can provide active authentication as a part of your overall plan to foster higher levels of academic integrity.

 

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