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CCC Online Education Initiative is offering online proctoring through Proctorio.In recent years, various federal, state and accreditation requirements have been enacted to ensure that steps are taken to curb cheating, and that a student taking an online course is the same student who will receive credit.

Individually, many colleges have struggled to find resources to fully support technologies and training that can bolster academic integrity in online courses. Tales of dedicated faculty cobbling together a collection of tools and resources are plentiful, but a more consistent, well resourced approach has been needed in order to fully address this topic that goes to the core of online instruction.

With the emerging pilot of the Online Course Exchange, the California Community Colleges (CCC) Online Education Initiative (OEI) has developed a strategy to provide resources to help faculty and colleges strengthen the academic integrity of their online courses. This effort is also designed to assist colleges in meeting legal and accreditation requirements. The approach, based on consultation with faculty experts, learning center coordinators, distance education coordinators and other stakeholders, has developed into a three-pronged strategy for deterring, detecting and documenting identity and cheating in online courses.

Online Test Proctoring

The first pillar of academic integrity involves security of student learning assessments, particularly online tests. After a robust search process, the OEI has partnered with Proctorio to provide computer-based exam monitoring that gives faculty control over testing parameters, environments and abnormalities. Exams can be given using Proctorio without the need for a student to make an appointment or engage in problematic software downloads.

In addition, it features the capability to capture a photo-ID at the start of an exam and compare it to the identity of the test-taker using facial recognition technology (if a webcam is required and enabled) while also documenting it for later faculty review. The software uses advanced algorithms to detect suspicious activity and lock down a student’s machine based on parameters enabled by faculty. The software can monitor head, eye and mouth movements in addition to detecting other voices in the room. All suspicious activities are presented via the Canvas grade book on an interactive timeline, and can be downloaded in a PDF report.

Proctorio can also support faculty by leveraging the power of big data to analyze data such as the IP address, hardware signature, general location of the student, time taken to complete the online test, and to compare and analyze data across student attempts. If students are colluding on an exam, the software has multiple abilities to bring it to the instructor’s attention. If this is occurring across multiple courses, the institution can be notified.

Watch this short video to learn more about Proctorio.

Formation of a CCC distance education proctoring network would provide on-campus testing centers for online students.Regionalized CCC Testing Centers

The second pillar is to recognize that there may be circumstances in which a student needs to take an exam for an online course by traveling to a testing center for an in-person proctoring session. Currently, there are varying models across the system for how this is handled. Some colleges have testing centers that provide students with a flexible window of time during which to travel to campus and take an exam. Others rely on faculty to schedule a mandatory time and location on campus for all students to travel to campus for the test. This can be problematic for online students, particularly if they live a significant distance from the college or have inflexible work schedules that are incompatible with a fixed, mandatory testing time and date.

In response to faculty and student needs, the OEI is leading the formation of a CCC distance education proctoring network. The goal of the project is to develop reciprocal agreements between participating colleges that have on-campus testing centers, allowing online students to find a testing center within a reasonable distance and without requiring a fee. A work group has been established to craft shared proctoring methods and procedures, and OEI staff are currently seeking interest from colleges that may want to participate.

Preventing & Detecting Plagiarism

The third pillar of the academic integrity strategy is to work to reduce instances of plagiarized content in assignments. Certainly, online plagiarism detection technologies are not new. However, typical approaches have focused first on detection and punishment. While these may be essential components, alone they may not be a sufficient strategy. The OEI Steering Committee, Consortium and Academic Integrity Work Group have each made it clear that more can be done to practice the equivalent of “preventive medicine” early on with students, rather than relying solely on enforcement mechanisms.

Simply put, it is time to broaden the message about plagiarism to ensure students understand what it is, deal with cultural differences that impact the conversation, and educate students about what they lose when they engage in plagiarism—then enforce discipline policies when plagiarism occurs. To further this goal, the OEI is developing innovative resources for faculty, such as an activity introduced this past year, which has students explore how paraphrasing is different from plagiarism, discuss it with a trained online tutor, and receive citation resources. The OEI is also devoting resources to documenting and providing professional development for faculty in how to address student populations with cultural norms that may contribute to unintended instances of plagiarism.

Finally, providing a resource for students to “pre-check” their work for plagiarism before submission is a way to reinforce the concept during each assignment. The OEI has recently completed a search process for a technology platform with an exclusive focus on plagiarism prevention and detection and, in June, recommended implementing a technology platform called VeriCite for verifying originality of student work. The platform enables colleges to protect student intellectual property from being absorbed into a vendor database while still comparing student submissions across the CCC, focus on most common sources of plagiarism, and provide robust filtering and documentation tools for faculty.

OEI Resources Can Benefit All 113 CCCs

Colleges that are not involved in the OEI pilot have immediate opportunities to participate. Where software tools require a license, the OEI has pursued agreements allowing any CCC access at a significant discount through a partnership with CollegeBuys. Through these efforts, the OEI is helping the system expand sustainable access to instructional technologies that enhance academic integrity, addressing Federal, state and accreditation compliance requirements.

Jory Hadsell is the Chief Academic Affairs Officer
of the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative