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R. Peytcheva-Forsyth, B. Yovkova, L. Aleksieva

Sofia University (BULGARIA)
The ever increasing development of e-learning in all its forms and deployments in the last 20 years has placed an array of challenges to the higher education institutions, which traditionally aim towards ensuring academic integrity, security and objectivity of students’ assessment. Globally, the academic community has not ceased exploring solutions to tackle the unethical behaviour of learners during the exams. The introduction of systems for e-authentication and authorship of students has become increasingly important in reducing cheating and plagiarism, thus ensuring the quality of assessment and education in general. There is growing interest in the research community worldwide in the effectiveness of various technological innovations to combat academic dishonesty. At the same time, there is insufficient empirical data available about the views and attitudes of students with special needs and disabilities (SEND students) towards the integration of such software in assessment of their work.

The purpose of this paper is to study the views and attitudes of SEND students towards the use of a software for authentication and plagiarism detection in e-assessment of their work and their expectations and readiness to use such software in comparison to non-SEND students. An attempt was made to determine the impact of the factor „type of disability" on students' opinions on the phenomena studied. The study was conducted within the framework of the European Commission funded TeSLA project, aiming at the development of different instruments for students electronic authentication and authorship in online and blended learning environments. A mixed method approach was used, including a quantitative analysis of data from a survey of 12 disabled and 660 non-disabled students and a qualitative analysis of in-depth individual interviews with 9 SEND students from Sofia University (Bulgaria).

The data analysis identifies significant variances in the views and attitudes of disabled and nondisabled students towards TeSLA's e-authentication instruments: face recognition, voice recognition, keystroke dynamics, and forensic analysis. Although in general most of the students surveyed express positive attitudes towards the TeSLA system, the disabled students show significant differences in their views and beliefs due to difficulties they face in relation to accessibility and usability of the system as a whole and its instruments in particular.

The differences are especially detectable with visually impaired students who use assistive software. Differences are also outlined with regards to the willingness of disabled and non-disabled students to share the personal data which TeSLA instruments capture as well as with the location of using TeSLA instruments – from home or from the university. The data analysis shows that the factor "type of disability" plays a significant role in determining these differences.

The conclusions of the data analysis would be useful for the university managers and the academic community in the process of integrating software for learner authentication and plagiarism detection in e-assessment.