about good practices and sound policies that accelerate the effective adoption and use of technologies in teaching and learning.
WCET Focus Area: Student Authentication
Student authentication in distance education has been an issue of interest to federal policy makers for several years. The growth in enrollments and in the number of educational providers of online learning fueled concerns about the ability of institutions to verify the identity of online students throughout the cycle of an online course: registration, participation, assessment, academic credit. Passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, followed by federal rule making, resulted in new regulations. One regulation required accrediting agencies to assure distance and correspondence education programs have processes in place to verify student identity.
The issue is complex and frequently misrepresented. Among many e-learning professionals, the issue seems unfairly aimed only at online education when similar concerns of identity falsification could apply in traditional higher education settings. The policy and regulatory conversations concerning identify authentication, originally focused on academic dishonesty, now encompass the serious problem of financial aid fraud, as reported in some high profile cases.
WCET has led a number of important efforts aimed at informing policy makers, accrediting agency leaders, and online program administrators of different approaches—pedagogical as well as technological—that ensure their compliance with the regulation but also raise the conversation to a more widely relevant discussion of academic integrity. WCET's Study Group on Academic Integrity and Student Authentication, established in March 2008, continues its work to identify and disseminate information on promising practices to promote academic integrity of which identity authentication is but one component.
WCET Student Authentication Activities
WCET Common Interest Group (CIG)
WCET's CIG on Academic Integrity and Student Authentication will begin work to develop three new additional "promising practices" resources, to complement its widely-recognized best practices for academic integrity document, on the three authentication approaches stipulated in the new federal guidelines: 1) secure credentialing/login and password, 2) proctoring, and 3) technology authentication systems. This CIG invites additional members who can contribute to the creation of these new resources to better inform the membership at-large about compliance with the HEOA and advancing academic integrity. Read more about joining a CIG.
Communications and Webcasts
"Conversations with Belle Wheelan," Chair, Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions.
"Provisioning Remote Users", March 11, 2010 webcast featuring L. McNabb, WCET CIG Chair, sponsored by InCommon. Program includes description of authentication technologies (e.g. biometrics, challenge questions, monitoring devices) as well as challenges in their implementation.
WCET 2011 Annual Meeting Presentations
- Approaches to Assessing Students
- Cheating 101
- Academic Integrity and Student Authentication
- From Zero to 90: Lessons Learned Building a Portal
Student Authentication Resources
Research and Articles
The Center for Academic Integrity, housed at Clemson University, is an outgrowth of Donald McCabe's seminal research of student attitudes and behaviors about cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty. To address the alarming rate of cheating among college students, the Center advocates for greater attention on five core values of integrity. Download a free copy of The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity.
Gearhart, Deb (2010). The Issues Related to Student Authentication in Distance Education. International Journal of Technoethics, 1 (1), 60-69. (This article is copyrighted. Contact the publisher of the journal for more information.)
"Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education (On-line Learning)", published by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, was published July 2009 and includes reference to the new federal requirement.