The Cal State University and University of California systems are looking to bolster their online education programs in order to make room for the growing demand of students enrolling in California institutions while combatting online cheating.
Private colleges, public universities and corporations have widely embraced online education, investing millions of dollars to tap into the vast pool of potential students.
Next year’s CSU budget contains $10 million in online strategies in an attempt to get students through high-demand or over-crowded courses.
Although online courses have existed for more than a decade, the debate over cheating has heated up in the last year with the emergence of massive open online classes (MOOCs), according to a Los Angeles Times article.
The article included that MOOCs can accommodate thousands of students in one class, making it difficult to reduce cheating.
Despite worries about online deception, studies show that there is not much difference in the amount of cheating that occurs in online versus real classrooms.
A 2010 study in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration found that 32.7 percent of online students self-reported cheating at least once on a test, compared to 32.1 percent of those in on-campus classes.
A Cal State Fullerton junior, who preferred to be left anonymous, admitted to cheating on a test he had in a past class that had a large amount of students.
“I cheated in classes with a lot of students, I’d pull out a cheat sheet or take out my notes because it’s hard for a teacher to look over all the students,” the junior said. “I would think an online class with that many students would be even easier to cheat.”
CSUF offers online degrees in sociology and business administration.
Students who enroll in this program are required to log into their course on a regular basis and engage in online discussions.
CSUF combats online cheating by using an online proctoring system called ProctorU.
When a student picks a date to take their tests, a proctor is scheduled to observe the student.
Before a student starts their online test, a webcam is activated on the students computer for the proctor so they can watch and listen to the student taking the test, according to the ProctorU tutorial.
The student must take the webcam and scan the room by moving it 360 degrees around the room. This way, the proctor can see what is on the desk, desktop screen, or elsewhere to make sure there are no opportunities to cheat, according to the tutorial.
The tutorial added that the student is required to show picture ID so the proctor knows the right person is taking the test on the computer.
Throughout a test, proctors observe everything the student is doing during the test.
The proctors are looking to see if eyes are consistently moving away from the monitor or if students are listening to someone give them answers, according to the tutorial.
If the proctor is suspicious about anything, they can either freeze or cancel the test.
J.P. Goodman, a senior criminal justice major, is taking two online courses.
He has not used ProctorU yet, but he does use other anti-cheating systems.
“I have to turn all my papers into a website called Turnitin for my advanced college writing course,” said Goodman. “It tells the professor whether I plagiarized or not by scanning the Internet to see if I copied material without giving it the proper accreditation.”
In Goodman’s online course, his professor proctors the amount of time it takes students to answer each question.
“In my introduction to computer applications course, my professor looks for patterns in the length of time it takes us to answer the questions. He looks for anything suspicious in the length of time it took to answer each question on tests,” Goodman said.
Goodman has used Turnitin since he was in high school and said the anti-cheating website helps deter him from cheating on any of his papers.
Kryterion, an anti-cheating service, reported suspicious activity in 16 percent of tests it monitors.
Most of suspicious activity spotted are students answering their cell phones or somebody entering the student’s room during a test.
Some classes are completely revamped in an effort to discourage cheating, according to the Los Angeles Times. High-stake cumilative final exams are replaced with frequent, small assessments.
Kelsey Jordana, a sophomore radio-TV-film major, said it is better to have more assignments or tests that are worth less rather than have fewer assignments, or test worth a large percentage of the grade.
“The pressure of finals or other big tests that can make or break your grade can sometimes drive students to make poor decisions like cheating,” Jordana said. “I believe it’s the fear of failing that drives students to cheat.”
Students can now earn degrees without ever stepping foot onto a college campus.
But, the addition of more online degrees comes with the responsibility to make sure proper procedures are in effect to fight online cheating.