Increased verification needed for online courses


The number of students receiving their education behind the fluorescent glow of laptops, earning entire degrees in the comfort of one’s pajamas, is rapidly increasing — but so is the risk of
cheating and losing the value of a degree a university awards.

While a new policy under review at USF aims to implement methods by which students must verify their
identity in distance learning and online education courses will likely not be 100 percent effective in preventing those looking to cheat the system from doing so, if it were to be adopted, it would be a step in the right direction.

A study from the American Psychological Association in 2009 — prior to the rapid peak in online enrollment in universities — found that more than two-thirds of college students admitted to cheating on homework assignments, tests or quizzes.

Yet with online education, which can be completed from remote locations of the world with no way to know who is actually completing the assignments, the ease at which cheating could be accomplished is multifold. Though methods of verification are still being determined for efficacy, the symbolic commitment of the university to preserving the sanctity of higher education is important.

Each year, USF grants an increasing number of degrees, upward of about 1,500 per semester. USF offers 25 online graduate degree programs and seven part-time ones. In addition, USF has 11 partial
undergraduate degrees, and of the 100 graduate certifications, 60 to 70 of them are partially or fully online.

Yet amid a landscape of fly-by-night colleges that spring up with promises of quick-and-easy tickets to landing jobs, it is becoming increasingly difficult for reputable academic institutions to distinguish themselves as bastions of higher education and ensure that each of their thousands of graduates are receiving the same quality of education — one that is not simply a quick ticket to a job, but an exposure to concepts and ideas that must be attained by students in the same way, regardless of the medium through which it is provided.