Webcam Proctors, Biometrics Verify Online Classes
PBS NewsHour takes a look at what webcam proctoring is like. As online college course companies begin to offer paid, verified classes, they've had to turn to some online tricks for verification.
CREDIT: From "How To Make Sure Online Students Don't Cheat" by PBS NewsHour on YouTube
Did you resolve to learn something new this year? Those who are fulfilling their goals with a free online college course may soon find themselves taking their tests under the watchful eye of a webcam proctor.
ProctorU, a company of live online proctors, is now in talks with Coursera and Udacity, two major startups that run massive, open, online college courses. For students taking tests with ProctorU proctors, the experience looks a bit like doing homework with a friend over Skype, except that proctors will be watching much more carefully than most friends would.
"We're going to very closely monitoring their face, where their attention is and exactly what it is that they're looking at," Jarrod Morgan, ProctorU's vice president, told PBS NewsHour, which reported on the Alabama-based company's talks with Coursera.
The webcam proctoring comes with Coursera and Udacity's introductions of paid, verified classes. The two companies made their names by offering classes, taught by prestigious university professors, to anyone for free. Now, however, Coursera plans to offer students "verified certificates" that will cost $30 to $100, GigaOM reported. Meanwhile, Udacity is working with San Jose State University to offer online-only classes for $150. Those classes are for SJSU students and will be regarded just like any other SJSU class, the New York Times reported.
For Coursera, verification pretty much means the company will do all it can to ensure certificate students aren't cheating. Coursera previously ran into problems with students plagiarizing essays even though the classes didn't count for anything and students were presumably taking them just for fun. Coursera's founders are hoping verified classes will be worth their cost because they'll have more weight on a resume.
Besides webcam proctoring, Coursera's verification methods include a biometric typing test, GigaOM reported.
The Udacity-SJSU deal is an experiment for California, supported by the state and the National Science Foundation. Gov. Jerry Brown hopes that cheap, verified, online courses will help underprepared California freshmen catch up quickly once they start college.