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Student Authentication

Student Authentication and Online Classes

Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008

In the summer of 2008, the Congress passed legislation that includes language with implication for online classes.  The implementation of this law is being taken seriously by accrediting agencies.  The key issue is knowing that the student who is doing the work in an online class is the student who is getting credit for doing the work in the online class.  Although the language of the conference committee that drafted the compromise legislation is clear that using an authentication system with a student login, such as Blackboard, is sufficient to meet the spirit and letter of the law, this checklist below is an opportunity for faculty to reflect on other ways to ensure that the students who are getting credit for a class are, indeed, the students who are doing the work in the class.  The statewide Academic Senate has published articles warning of interpreting the law too narrowly at the same time that faculty can embrace the opportunity to reflect on the pedagogy (andragogy) of online learning.

Here are some ways that online faculty can help ensure that the students who are doing the work are the students getting credit for the class.

__Password secured (college and/or district controlled) Course Management Systems (e.g. Blackboard)
__Internal, instructor controlled password protection for exams
__Techniques to limit cheating on exams (i.e. randomized questions, multiple questions from pools, time limits on exams, limited availability of exams...)
__Extensive writing tasks throughout the semester
__Revision of writing tasks throughout the semester
__“Plagiarism training” for students
__“Plagiarism certificate” for students
__“Ethics training” for students
__“Ethics certificate” for students
__Requiring students to use Turitin
__Informal checking for plagiarism


There may be many other ways to ensure that students who are getting credit in an online class are actually the students who are doing the work.  Look for professional development opportunities for you to share your practices.

More information about student authentication can be found at WCET