Online classes use new technology to prevent cheating

By Jennifer Graham

Online classes are available for those wanting to go to school from home, but now some universities are requiring more from students than just signing an honor code.

Some universities are utilizing different electronics that monitor students during online classes. Cameras and fingerprint readers are just some of the tools on the market. Currently, UK does not use of any type of electronic devices or programs that monitor students who take online classes or submit homework online.

Many online homework submission programs allow for instructors to view statistics of students’ submissions. Comparing scores from in-class work to online work is currently the only method of monitoring students’ honesty, said Alaina Houston, the Hispanic studies’ Web homework coordinator.

“The only indication of cheating we have is by comparing students work in class to the work they submit online,” said Houston. “I look at online homework that my students submit all the time.”

Elizabeth Swart, a political science junior, has taken online classes before. While online classes present the opportunity to cheat, Swart said she would not be comfortable being watched while doing homework or taking exams.

“I understand that cheating could be a problem with online courses,” she said, “but cameras would make me very uncomfortable.”

While some students may oppose Web cameras, instructors are hoping for some kind of help with monitoring academic honesty in students.

“I think it would be wonderful if we could eventually get something to take the guess work out of monitoring students’ online work,” Houston said.

Online classes are offered by UK through the Distance Learning Program. Officials in the program declined to comment on whether or not UK is considering the use of electronic monitoring devices.

While the situation is hypothetical for UK students, it is a reality for Penn State University students who are enrolled in the Distance Education program.

Penn State’s Distance Education Campus, World Campus, did a test run for electronic monitoring over the summer with a program made by Kryterion Inc. The program consists of a Web camera, which cost students around $80, and a keyboard biometric reader. Paula Hamy, assistant registrar for World Campus, said Web cameras made testing in online classes easier for some students.

“There were mixed results (from students), but most found it convenient,” Hamy said. “Before we tried the program, students had to have a secure proctor and a paper exam. Now students can test online by themselves.”

Hamy said the cameras were beneficial, but some UK students believe they will just create problems. Swart said she took online classes to get away from the pressure of exams in the classroom, and a camera would not help with her anxiety.

“The reason I took online classes is because I get really bad test anxiety … my hands clam up and I start freaking out, even though I know the material,” Swart said. “The camera would be just like taking a test in a classroom setting, so what would be the point of taking a class online?”

While universities use the gadgets in an attempt to reduce cheating, some feel that they infringe on students’ privacy.

Phillip Liles, a business management and administration freshman, said he would not want a camera watching him as he did his schoolwork.

“I would be angry because it would be invading my personal privacy,” Liles said. “No one needs to know what my room looks like or what I am doing.”