Having just finished an article on the new survey from Inside Higher Ed (IHE), I left something out.
The survey had some important findings about two of my favorite subjects – online education and academic fraud and cheating.
I follow and write frequently about the billion dollar industry that is college cheating – how shockingly common it is and how American universities seem not to care. I have long thought that the anonymity and distance of the Internet made it easier for students to cheat. In fact, a few years ago, I wrote an article about how it was possible to outright pay someone to pretend to be you in an online college class. And more recently how one public online college had actively decided not to take action they knew would deter cheating.
So, when IHE asked about 2,000 college professors and 175 or so administrators of online programs about cheating, I underlined the finding that, “Sixty percent of faculty members believe that academic fraud is more common in online courses than in face-to-face courses.”
That’s probably not shocking, or at least it should not be. Online college is a volume business designed to squeeze efficiency out of teaching not quality into it. Whatever “check the box” experience college is, online college can be that ab absurdum.
But it’s not that 60% of teachers think cheating in online classes is more common that’s really surprising. The thing that ought to make you stop and think is that according to the IHE survey, just 11% of the “digital learning” administrators thought cheating was more common online. Sixty to eleven.
After the general question, the survey asked only about identity verification, which is just one type of academic fraud. Not even, by comparison, a particularly common one. Still the disconnect on what administrators think and what teachers know about even this kind of cheating is jaw-dropping.
Ninety-one percent of administrators of online programs say they are either “very” or “somewhat” confident in the methods their institution uses to verify online student identities. Just 54% of teachers shared that level of confidence. In fact, the other 46% of teachers – teachers – said they were either “not too confident” or “not confident at all” in how their school was handling identify verification. We’re talking about actually knowing who’s in the online class, doing the work.
When asked how their institution verifies the identities of online students, 97% of administrators said their school used a login with username and password, which anyone with a Netflix account will tell you verifies precisely nothing. If I’m paying someone to cheat for me, I’m giving them my username and password – they literally can’t cheat without it.
And here’s where it gets even more fun.
According to the IHE survey, 64% of administrators said their school uses “live proctoring with a webcam” to verify student identities in online classes – basically, a classroom video chat. But when you ask the teachers if their school does that, just 18% said, “yup, we do that.” Half the administrators say they use “photo identification,” just 15% of teachers say they do.
Clearly, the people run who online programs think they are safe, and that cheating isn’t much more common online than it is on campus. The people who actually do the teaching disagree.
Again, past the basic question, this is just verifying who’s actually taking the online class. Nearly half of teachers aren’t confident their school is doing that well.
IHE did not ask about far more common types of cheating such as sharing testing materials or paying for custom coursework or outright plagiarism. I can only imagine.
As the other findings in the IHE survey revealed, online education already has problems such as a plurality of teachers thinking online does not produce the same learning outcomes as in-class, on-campus education. Or that’s overly commercialized by companies that “manage” or “support” or “design” online programs. Even with all that, cheating may be online education’s Achilles heel.
While there’s zero question that America has a massive overall college cheating problem, online programs are a unique beast in that the very force that still holds their promise – the ability to scale with massive reach – amplifies and invites cheating. It’s possible right now, today, to download all the assignments, questions, written work and test answers you would need for nearly any online course at any university, for pennies. Or you can just pay someone to pretend to be you. The teachers know it, the researchers know it, the students know it. Administrators continue to not want to.
Source: Forbes – Leadership