Technology vendors are eager to sell college officials hardware and software designed to verify the identify of online students—and thereby prevent cheating. A free article in The Chronicle describes some of the technologies that colleges are trying out to make certain that the person taking an online exam is, in fact, the student enrolled in the course. The technologies include Web cameras that watch students taking tests and scanners that capture students’ fingerprints.
A provision in a bill reauthorizing the Higher Education Act is fueling much of the interest in this issue. A paper released in February by the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications says the provision—while not onerous to most distance-learning providers—could “drive up the cost of these important education programs.”
And some online institutions fear that the provision would require them to have their students travel to distant locations to take proctored exams on paper. The result? Some states would conclude that the institutions have a “physical presence” in their states, and would subject the institutions to “a whole new set of state regulations,” says John F. Ebersole, president of Excelsior College. —Andrea L. Foster