As more online courses are being offered for credit, the problem arises of how to monitor online exams for those courses. Such issues include knowing whether the test taker is cheating or not, and whether the test taker is really the student who registered for the course.
A New York Times article from 2 March 2013, “Keeping an Eye on Online Test-Takers,” focuses on developing technologies to deal with these issues. These technologies are for both monitoring test takers by remote proctoring, and also for determining whether the student taking the exam is the same person that has been participating in the course.
The topic of this article could lead to an interesting class discussion about what the students would design for this purpose. Many students might be motivated to cheat on online tests if they could get away with it, but as future engineering professionals they would also be aware of the consequences of passing a course through cheating rather than personal ability and expertise.
Students could brainstorm their own solutions to the problem, including the kind of monitoring they would design. It’s like having expert hackers design software to prevent hacking. Then they could compare their ideas with those presented in the article.
In addition, they could the discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the different techniques presented. These techniques could be rated according to which are more efficient, practical, effective, ethical, economical (for student and for testing institution).
Some of the ideas also raise ethical issues. For example:
- Cheating itself is, of course, an ethical issue. Professionals who earned a degree by cheating might not be able to fulfill their professional duties as well as colleagues who earned their credentials legitimately.
- But developing eavesdropping technology for tests could also lead to abuse in other areas (see my blog post “Big Brother is tracking you,” 26 February 2013).
A computer science professor is quoted in article, “Having a camera watch you, and software keep track of your mouse clicks, that does smack of Big Brother,” he said. “But it doesn’t seem any worse than an instructor at the front constantly looking at you, and it may even be more efficient.” Would your students agree?