Online Education is Growing Faster. How Can You Help it Grow Smarter?

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Everything from catching up with friends and family to shopping to learning seems to live online these days. You can do pretty much anything on the Internet, and more things become available every day as technology advances even further.

Education is following suit. Advances in online education have helped increase the availability of learning to anyone with a computer and Internet connection. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, 5.8 million students took at least one of their college courses online in the fall of 2014. That statistic has undoubtedly grown in years since.

So, online education is growing. But, are the technological advances making education smarter? Is it possible that the online experience can ever be as good as the in-classroom experience? Better still, can technology actually make it a smarter solution?

The hard work being done by a dynamic, new generation of teachers, administrators and IT leadership have helped rapidly advance the the art of teaching. The quality of teaching, course work, and student engagement is expanding faster than ever. New technology promises more possibilities for customizing course work and teaching styles to individual learning styles. In our world, that is even more exciting than Amazon selling avocado toast.

However, there is a downside to the fast rising online educational access. If unmonitored, some sneaky students will take advantage of the situation and cheat on their online exams. The more students who cheat on exams, the less value a degree will have. If students cannot practically demonstrate in a work environment that they are as skilled as their degree says they are, what’s the real value of that degree? Worse, far worse, what damage does that do to the student who earned their merits at your institution fair and square?

To help our industry grow faster and smarter, we must work together.

Imagine the day when an online degree is considered more desirable by students and more respected by employers. At ProctorU, we are not only confident that that day is coming, we are working hard to help teachers, students, administrators and institutional IT leaders make it happen faster. For this dream to become reality, we must protect the access students have to better opportunities through online learning. We must protect the value of a degree earned online, specifically by ensuring the integrity of every test taken and merit earned.

Let’s start with access to the opportunity of education. More and more schools are moving away from physical testing centers. Even though these remote locations have some advantages, they still require students to physically come to them and be tested during the center’s hours of operations, which greatly reduces access. Initially, some institutions felt more comfortable with the presence of an “in-the-flesh” proctor that these centers provided, but they have come to learn that the testing center solution is actually less rigorous and secure.

Now, to address value. As stated earlier, the value of the merit earned is only as great as the trust people have in it. A well-trained, professional proctor, watching and listening more intently to a smaller group provides a much higher degree of integrity insurance than a single grad student, or even a professor, watching a room full of people taking a test. That is compounded when multiple types of tests, each with different allowances, provisions, and restrictions are taking place in a large facility, such as a testing center or auditorium style classroom.

At ProctorU, we have worked to uphold exam integrity since the beginning of online proctoring. Working with teachers and administrators, we set the original defined standard for online proctoring in 2008. Though we far surpass this standard with our current solution, that original protocol still stands today as the baseline other proctoring services must rise to. But even in our infancy, the driving purpose of our technology was not simply to catch the cheater. Our original vision and our abiding mission is far more important – to protect the honorable students. We ultimately want to increase the value of an online degree.

We realize that proctoring is a small part of that greater purpose, but it is an important part. And by offering better access to opportunity and a higher standard of exam integrity, online education is already ahead of the traditional classroom. It is in many ways already smarter. But there is still room to grow and, as originators and leaders in the space, we are committed and eager to engage with others advancing our cause.

One way we’re growing is by customizing our solution to fit the needs of the assessment. One size (or solution) does not fit all. For high-stakes certifications where the intellectual property of the exam itself is in need of advanced protection, we can craft a solution designed around that priority.  With customized solutions we are finding ways for teachers to provide a greater frequency of assessments at lower cost – a key factor in our goal of increasing the opportunity to access education. And with our multi-factor identification program, we are even able to identify anomalies in test-taker profiles that are protecting our partners from the astounding costs of financial aid fraud – a dark difficult force driving up the cost of education to all.

The possibilities are endless, the advancements rapid, and thanks to the dedication of teachers, administrators, and technologists, the future will also be much smarter.