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Webcams, keystroke biometrics deter cheating online

The number of courses being offered online is growing by the day, and you’d be hard pressed to find a student who hasn’t already taken or is currently enrolled in an online course. This growing trend is adding a new wrinkle to academic dishonesty and fraud, and is giving rise to a new breed of identity verification technologies.

One online course monitoring system currently available is the Birmingham, Alabama-based ProctorU. The company has seen a growing interest in its video monitoring service, which has been used by colleges and universities nationwide.

Students connect with live proctors, either in person or through webcams, and in a three-step process, are verified to take tests while the proctor monitors their computer activity using customer-support software to deter academic dishonesty.

ProctorU’s Ucard system is designed to helps guard against financial aid fraud and ensure students are attending online courses.

The system employs some of the same techniques already being used to verify students before they take online tests, along with new authentication methods like keystroke analysis, to make cheating online courses more difficult. To date, ProctorU reports that eleven universities have contracted with the company as part of its Ucard pilot.

ProctorU uses a layered verification process, which resembles multi-factor authentication, to help establish a student’s identity online.

To begin the process, a proctor sees the student via a webcam, checks their ID and takes their photo to keep on file. Then, the the student is prompted to answer a series of challenge, or knowledge-based questions to further validate their identity. Finally, the system’s keystroke analysis software adds a biometric element to round out the student’s profile for any subsequent logins.

Per the company’s website, Missouri’s Columbia College has used the solution to great effect. The college reports nearly 16,000 students taking at least one online course each year, offering more than 800 accredited online classes and 27 accredited online degree programs.

Columbia used the solution to cut back on suspected financial aid fraud associated with its online course offerings. Using the company’s student identity management process, the college reported avoiding disbursing nearly $6 million in financial aid funds to suspected fraudulent recipients.

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