Online proctors call for integrity against cheating

By Tara Kulash

 

While Internet freedom can make finding answers to an online test a breeze, different technologies could provide creative ways to prevent students from cheating.

Test-taking options are left up to the professor for online SIU courses. Some instructors require students to take their tests in the Office of Distance Education and Off-Campus Programs, while others let their students take tests from home. However, both options could offer opportunities and obstacles to cheating.

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According to Ann Pearson, director of the bachelor completion program, the College of Business online courses program uses a remote proctor made by the company Software Secure. The proctor, which students pay to use, includes a microphone, 360-degree camera and a fingerpad scanner. Pearson said it plugs into a computer’s USB drive, takes a picture of the student and scans a finger to authenticate them. The room’s audio and video is also recorded and sent to Software Secure, where the university can access it to ensure the student didn’t cheat, she said.

“The overall advantage to using this is the students can take their exams from home,” she said.

She said other university programs, such as the rehabilitation program, use the software, but the idea to use the proctor came when she went to a Decision Sciences Institute Conference. She said her program began to use the remote proctor in January 2011.

“At first it’s a little freaky because it’s new, but overall it’s been received well,” she said.

While several campus programs use unique testing room anti-cheating measures, several students had varying takes on the effectiveness of distance learning testing.

Nokomis studying business marketing, said she takes her tests at Rehn Hall, where a proctor stays in the room with her. She said the proctor’s back is often turned away from the student, but it slightly deters cheating because someone is in the room.

Emily Lind, a sophomore from Herrin studying art, said she took tests for her spring online class in the distance education office. Lind said she didn’t think there was a big opportunity to cheat because she was required to leave her belongings in the main office. However, she said a proctor was not always in the room to monitor her.

Alex Ratermann, a junior from Aviston studying recreation, said several of his online classes required him to take tests in the distance education office.

Ratermann said while he thinks it would be possible to cheat in the office, it would still be harder than if he took the test at home without supervision.

“There’s someone sitting at the front desk, so if she started walking around she could tell (if you’re cheating), so there’s a little bit of pressure,” he said.

However, the student holds a responsibility to know not to cheat, Ratermann said.

“I think there’s a little bit of integrity there,” he said. “I would be upset if someone stood over my shoulder watching me take my test. It would make me do a lot worse.”

The amount of security against cheating at the office is adequate, he said.

Lind said she agrees it’s a student’s responsibility not to cheat, because she never considered doing it.

“If I wanted to cheat, I feel like I would have gotten away with it, but I never thought to do so,” she said.

Other state universities have varying policies concerning distance testing.

At Eastern Illinois University, academic advisor Kim Redfern said online students always take their tests at home. She said the students are trusted not to cheat.

Megan Rush, Southeastern Missouri University online courses office student worker, said students at her institution always take their online tests at home as well.

Similar to SIU, Western Illinois University leaves the testing location up to instructors.

Sue Schoonover, WIU testing center chief clerk, said the testing room at her office has a camera and window so students are always watched. She said there’s also a lockdown browser so test takers cannot look at any other sites outside of their exams.

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