Raising concerns about student privacy, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that legislation renewing the Higher Education Act contains language that may bring video surveillance or biometric testing into the homes of students participating in distance learning.
The paragraph is actually about clamping down on cheating. It says that an institution that offers an online program must prove that an enrolled student is the same person who does the work.
Already, the language is spurring some colleges to try technologies that authenticate online test-takers by reading their fingerprints, watching them via Web cameras, or recording their keystrokes.
How do professors know that students handing in assignments or tests in person are who they say they are? It’s only a small step to require biometric recognition for all students handing in materials. Think how much better our ability to track people with video would be if there were databases containing reference shots of people from college onward.
This issue needs a reality check from the public. Are you comfortable with the requirement to identify students as they do academic work outside the classroom? Would you be willing to contact your Congressional rep to express concern?
Tip of the hat to Brandon Lovested, who pointed this out by email.