University of Iowa, ProctorU Investigate Online Cheating Cases

(Photo: Luis Llerena, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Luis Llerena, Creative Commons)

The University of Iowa is currently investigating a possible case of academic misconduct after more than 30 students have been suspected of cheating in online classes by having third parties take exams for them. The school confirmed it would take disciplinary action against anyone who is found guilty.

The revelations came to light after ProctorU, a company specialized in providing multistep identity verifications for online classes, claimed some discrepancies in the identification of test takers were found. According to Sarah Tisinger of the WQAD, as many as 30 students admitted in online courses might have tried to cheat by having someone else sit for their exams. The cases were discovered through discrepancies in identification provided by the test-taker in one or more exams, and in some cases, even in multiple courses, notes Iowa City's Press-Citizen.

In an e-mail statement, Jeneane Beck, the University's spokesperson, commented that the University was taking the issue very seriously and it would look at each case carefully. However, she declined to reveal further information about the alleged cases of cheating, including the affected courses and when the tests were taken.

Beck also reminded that anyone found guilty might face expulsion or suspension:

"At the University of Iowa, we emphasize on academic excellence and integrity and strive to ensure that our students realize what is required to meet our high standards of academic integrity. There are times when students stray from those standards, and when that happens, there are repercussions."

Asked to comment, a representative of ProctorU said:

"With an evolving online education environment, universities are faced with the challenge of maintaining quality, rigorous standards and a consistent experience in online courses and examinations… Unfortunately, some students are tempted by the anonymity of online programs, which is why it is important for colleges and universities to have systems in place to ensure the integrity of not only their institution but also that of their students."

As Vanessa Miller writes, more than 800 academic institutions worldwide team up with ProctorU to ensure the integrity of their e-learning programs. It is not a fully computerized service; it makes use of real people and technology to assist the universities identify any student for any authentication need. ProctorU's multistep identification method includes a live person who cam see a student via a webcam to check the ID, take a photo, and double check his/her identity. Therefore, each student has a record containing a photograph, IP address, and a specific keystroke analysis.

Beck confirmed that the University of Iowa had several internal procedures in place to ensure academic integrity. If needed, the University will keep adjusting them to the new environments, she concluded.

The number of online courses offered in all three of Iowa's public universities has been rapidly increasing in the recent years, according to data from the Iowa Board of Regents. During the 2014-15 academic year, the University of Iowa added 113 e-classes. Iowa State Universities offered 41 new courses, and the University of Northern Iowa offered 49.

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