Cheating in online courses should not be schools first concern

Fingerprint scans, 360-degree view cameras and detailed questions and answers sound more like parts of a James Bond movie than aspects of the educational system. However, some educators thought these were the lengths they had to go to satisfy the requirements of the Higher Education Act.

The act, which was re-authorized last month, covers guidelines that Universities would have to meet to monitor students taking online courses.

Initially, educators thought they’d have to cut online programs because of the expenses of buying gadgets like webcams and finger scans to meet requirements for preventing plagiarism, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Given the state of the economy, forcing Universities to go high-tech in the chase for cheaters would have been the wrong move.

Instead, the law was reworded and “would allow colleges to satisfy the mandate with techniques like secure log-ins and passwords or proctored examinations,” according to the Chronicle.

Cheating has always been a problem in schools and data and surveys indicate a steady increase in cheating, according to the book Student Cheating and Plagiarism in the Internet Era: A Wake-up Call by Ann Lathrop.

However, catching the few that wrongfully take advantage of online education to cheat and plagiarize shouldn’t be a main concern for universities right now. Money is tight everywhere, so schools and the government have to choose their battles.

One of USF’s definitions of cheating is taking an examination for or in place of another student. The suggested punishment is that “the enrolled student receive an F in the course and be suspended from school for one year and that the stand-in, if a University student, be suspended from school for one year.”

A cheaper way to discourage cheating is to make sure the punishment is well-known by all students. The University could even require students to come to class with their student I.D. for at least the midterm and final exam

The law was reworked for the right reason: to keep schools from tightening their budget belts even further. Maintaining a quality education for the many must take precedence over the ethical violations of the few.