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February 23, 2013

Web Classes Grapple With Stopping Cheats

Douglas Belkin:

Traditional colleges and a new breed of online-education providers, trying to figure out how to profit from the rising popularity of massive open online courses, are pouring resources into efforts to solve a problem that has bedeviled teachers for centuries: How can students be stopped from cheating?

David Walter Banks for The Wall Street Journal
Satia Renee, a 50-year-old from Smyrna, Ga., sees incidences of cheating as a byproduct of course design.

Coursera, a Silicon Valley-based MOOC, recently launched a keystroke system to recognize individual students' typing patterns. EdX, its East Coast rival, is employing palm-vein scans. Other strategies include honor codes, remote web-camera proctors and test-taking centers.

Until recently, MOOCs have offered only certificates of completion that in some cases come with a letter grade. Typically, papers have been assessed by fellow students and tests marked by computers. Students frequently study together in online chat rooms--and there is often little to prevent them from cheating on tests or papers.

The efforts to stamp out cheating underscore just how much the stakes are rising. Until now, MOOCs have generally been free of charge and the most popular classes have attracted 150,000 students at a time. More than three million students from at least 160 countries have signed up for courses ranging from "A Beginners Guide to Irrational Behavior" to "Financial Engineering and Risk Management." Given the vast profit potential, MOOCs are scrambling to ensure the academic integrity of the courses.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at February 23, 2013 2:19 AM
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