THE IMPACT OF PRIOR EXPERIENCE OF E-LEARNING AND E-ASSESSMENT ON STUDENTS’ AND TEACHERS’ APPROACHES TO THE USE OF A STUDENT AUTHENTICATION AND AUTHORSHIP CHECKING SYSTEM
E-assessment for online learning has a number of advantages, particularly in enabling easier access for students working at a distance from the main campus. However, it also presents a number of challenges, including the higher risk of impersonation, contract cheating and plagiarism, which can undermine the quality of online learning and assessment and challenge the management of the universities offering online education.
To meet these challenges, the European Commission funded TeSLA project has defined and developed a system which ensures the authentication of learner identity and authorship in online and blended learning environments, thus allowing assessment to be securely carried out remotely.
This paper addresses cheating and plagiarism as a challenge for the introduction of e-assessment and online learning in a campus-based university at the stage of transformation of its educational model from face-to-face to online learning. Sofia University is a campus based university which was accredited for distance education few years ago and now is transforming some master degree programmes from face-to-face to online mode. At the time of introducing distance learning, the university was operating two models of education and assessment: face-to-face and blended. In some face-to-face courses e-assessment is used, in some of the blended courses the students are examined only in a face-to-face environment. At this stage of transition from completely face-to-face to blended and fully online education the teachers and students at the university have widely different levels of experience of online education and e-assessment.
Our hypothesis is that levels of experience of online education and e-assessment will impact on the perspectives that teachers and students have with respect to the challenges posed by the introduction of e-assessment, and in particular on the issue of a potential increase in cheating and plagiarism. This study will, therefore, attempt to identify:
(i) how the teachers’ and students’ experience of online learning and e-assessment affects their perspective on cheating and plagiarism in e-assessment;
(ii) how the use of student authentication and authorship checking system affects their perspective on the advantages and challenges of e-assessment.
To answer these questions, two online surveys with 100 academic staff and 285 students from Sofia University were conducted at the end of academic year 2016/2017. Additional data was gathered from individual interviews with teachers which is also a subject of analysis in this paper.
Three main perspectives on the challenges of e-assessment were identified in the surveys – which we have called optimistic, neutral and pessimistic. The optimistic perspective sees the usage of specific technologies for authentication of students’ authorship and identity as having the potential to address the challenges of e-assessment. The neutral perspective sees both forms of assessment as including opportunities to cheat and plagiarise, but different technological solutions could increase or decrease these opportunities. The pessimistic perspective sees e-assessment as increasing the opportunities for cheating. The optimistic perspective was found mostly amongst the teachers with significant experience in blended learning and e-assessment, and amongst the students with little experience.