As a student, nothing is more frustrating than learning that your peers have cheated to earn a grade similar to your own. If they are caught by the professor or institution, suddenly there is an extremely scrutinous eye on the honest work of the rest of the class. If they don’t you are left with the knowledge that individuals earning the same degree as you are entering the workforce under qualified for the careers they are pursuing.
Cheating and plagiarism constitute a surprisingly large challenge for nearly all educational institutions; nearly 36 percent of all undergraduate cheating is a result of students copying information directly from the internet without citing it. About 7 percent is from students goading others into completing their work for them.
This problem has become distinctly more pronounced with the rise of online education. Over 6.7 million students are currently enrolled in online courses – roughly 32 percent of all students. Online education adds an interesting dilemma for professors in that there is no one available to proctor tests, and a dishonest student could easily have a friend or coworker take an exam for them to bolster their grade.
Recent developments in online education anti-cheating technology are beginning to offer a solution to this problem however. One such technology is the program ProctorTrack, which was designed specifically to prevent cheating in online classrooms. The software uses a webcam and scans the face and knuckles of students. Furthermore, it video records students as they are taking the test to make sure they are not switching seats or having answers passed during the exam.
Rutgers University is one of the first online programs to begin integrating the software into its web-based exam policy. Students taking online courses are required to download ProctorTrack for a $32 fee. Check-in data and associated exam videos are sent to the class professor along with the test once students are finished. ProctorTrack helps distance education programs to meet the integrity requirements of the US Department of Education’s Higher Education Opportunities Act of 2008.
Thus far, online students have been less than enthused. An interview conducted by the New York Times of Rutgers online student, Betsy Chao, explains student thoughts more in depth. According to Ms. Chao, during the exam a red warning bar appears at the top of the screen to let her know the anti-cheating software is recording her. Additionally, a small window remains open on her screen that shows a live image of what the webcam is recording.
Ms. Chao felt as though the entire experience was “sort of excessive.” Other students expressed anger at having to pay the additional fee to use the product. Many feel as though they should not have to pay to prove they are doing honest work even though they are working online.
ProctorTrack is not the only online anti-cheating software that educational institutions are using to prevent dishonesty in their programs. Most already require students to submit papers to programs such as Turnitin which digitally scans papers for plagiarism or SpotLight which uses students’ previous academic histories to predict their likely performance in a given class. Like it or not, it seems as though anti-cheating software is here to stay.