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Editorial: Technology to monitor students online is unrealistic

Big Brother — err, Big University — is watching you.

They want to know if you are who you say you are online.

Universities and professors for years have been left to wonder whether the person behind the computer taking an online exam was the actual student.

But making multiple warnings on syllabi, like most professors do, and stating the academic dishonesty policy — which at USF allows professors to give double Fs if students are caught cheating — is not enough for universities anymore.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the new Higher Education Act requires universities to confirm that the people taking online courses are actually those who enrolled in the class.

To help with such a transition, several corporations have come up with solutions, such as webcams that would allow professors to listen in to keystrokes and machines that scan fingerprints while providing a 360-degree view of the student and his or her surroundings.

Imagine the amount of work such measures would pile onto professors. Professor Robert Mertzman taught nearly 1,600 students last fall in his online Issues in Sport class. It’d take an army of professors to listen to the keystrokes of every student or monitor them all via webcam.

Time aside, one must wonder why there is these common mistrust of students that such technologies have even become available.

Most students who take online courses take them because their schedule does not permit them to physically  attend a regular class.

It is presumptuous to assume that students — who are paying for an education to begin with — would take courses online because it’s easier to cheat. Yes, it probably does happen from time to time, but is the situation so severe that students need to be kept under constant guard?

Plain and simple — at the end of the day, a student looking to cheat will do so, whether in an online environment or in a lecture hall.

What is to say that students who take classes in lecture halls — sometimes with 300 to 400 students — don’t try to cheat come test time? Even in classes where the professor requires students to show their IDs, ambitious cheaters surely find ways, such as recruiting a friend who looks “kind of” like them to take the test.

If a class is so important that cheating is such a worrisome issue, then the course should not be taught online. Additional expenses in technology can’t be justified by a mere possibility — especially one that could apply to any kind of classroom setting.