Wiping out online exam cheating is the goal of a new Europe-wide taskforce, co-led by The Open University.
The £5.5 million programme, in development, aims to create anti-cheating tools in e-learning.
- facial recognition
- voice recognition
- keystroke recognition
- digital security methods and anti-plagiarism tools.
They will make it possible to be certain of the identity of a person taking a test or exam online, even when they are sitting a computer at home alone.
Crucially, the programme will make use of a range of techniques to verify the learner's identity and to confirm that any work they submit has not been authored or amended by another person.
Named TeSLA, it is an 18-member wide consortium with a three-year mission to ensure the reliability and credibility of e-learning tests and exams, by creating a Europe-wide system of anti-cheating technology.
The aim is to remove a key barrier to the wider adoption of e-learning by European universities and schools, and provide a boost to the European e-learning software industry.
The Open University’s role is to lead the analysis of large-scale trials of a range of software tools and technologies to prevent students cheating.
The internet and Virtual Learning Environments allow learners to learn everywhere and at any time, but to take full advantage of these new opportunities we must be able to assess online learning in a secure and reliable manner.
"TeSLA is about bringing together technologies from different research areas into one system which can be used by any educational institution and any virtual learning environment. This is an action project, building on research and technology that already exists.”
The process of piloting the project, involving testing and evaluation with thousands of students in Europe starts this summer and will last throughout the life of the project.
Professor Whitelock said the system being tested can be used for both formative online assessment – which monitors how well students are doing throughout their course. It will also test summative assessment, which means tests and exams that count towards students' final marks.
It will incorporate protection for privacy and other legal and ethical issues.
Once such a system is in place it will promote greater uptake of e-learning by European universities and schools generally, not just specialist e-learning institutions.
TeSLA will also work with industrial partners to develop a commercial version for the international e-learning market. It is expected to facilitate the emergence of innovative businesses and provide new opportunities and competitive advantage for European software developers.
TeSLA is a consortium of universities, quality assurance agencies, research centres and technology companies from 12 countries.