Day 18: Are Your Online Students Who They Say They Are?

Photo by Identity Theft Protection

A growing challenge for online courses is verifying the identity of online students. One issue is verifying that the student who registered is the one doing the work – which is a challenge in both face-to-face and online courses. Another issue is whether the student who is logging into the class is actually the student who registered for the course. Identity authentication is also important in preventing financial aid fraud. You can read more about these issues here.

At Andrews University, we use four main methods of verifying student identity:

  • Secure login and password
  • Exam proctoring
  • TurnItIn for plagiarism checking.
  • Live presentations or live course sessions or live Skype video conversations with the instructor
  • Individual classes may use other methods as well.

Secure Login and Password

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 regulations currently require a minimum of a secure login and password. This is cared for by students logging into your course in Moodle with their Andrews ID and password. If you are using a textbook publisher’s content and homework site, students are logging in securely there too, but you should include at least a few assignments where students login to the Andrews Moodle.

Exam Proctoring

If your course has an exam, we strongly recommend that you have the exam proctored, and that it has appropriate weight in the class requirements. We provide proctoring services for online courses, so email to arrange for this if you haven’t already. Other tips for exams include:

  • Randomizing questions from a test bank (but note the loopholes with this)
  • Randomize the order of answers for multiple choice questions
  • Set a short window for completing the test
  • Use Respondus Lock Down browser to reduce students’ ability to use other windows while in the exam (email to arrange for this)
  • Don’t allow students to see the answers on the test until everyone has taken the test.

Plagiarism Checking

Andrews University uses TurnItIn to check essays and other written assignments for plagiarism. This tool helps to address the issue of academic integrity, but it’s important to know that students can buy custom essays which plagiarism checkers will not catch.

You can also help prevent plagiarism by designing assignments that require thinking beyond comprehension, and teaching students how to use and evaluate Internet sources.

Live Interaction

Skype, Adobe Connect, Google Hangout, when used with a webcam, are potential ways to SEE your students to verify their identity. Instructional ideas include:

  • Live course sessions. Be sure to engage students in responding back to test their knowledge “live” as compared to assignments and other online interactions.
  • Live Skype sessions one-on-one with the instructor. For students who need further assistance or need a consultation.
  • Live student presentations. If you have a very project-based course, exam proctoring may not be an appealing assessment option. Live student presentations are another method to verify identity.

Compare the student you see on the webcam with their admissions photo. In the admissions process, students’ photos are added to their profile in Banner. You can see them by logging into Vault, go to iVue, the view the class roster. These photos are also used in Moodle. You can do this easily by just having a window open with the Banner class roster while you are taking attendance in your live session.

For Further Study

Your Turn

Reflect. How do you know students are who they say they are in your face-to-face classes? How do you know they are doing their own work? What tips or concerns would you add to the list from today’s tips?

This post is Day 18 of the 20 Day Challenge to Teaching Interactive Online Courses.

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