Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dogs on the Internet

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. (CC photo by Alan "Cogdogblog" Levine). But soon the jig will be up and we will all be safe from those crazy non-students out there.

In a move that has been expected for about eighteen months now, the Senate has passed a bill (S.1642, Higher Education Amendments of 2007) that "requires an institution that offers distance education to have processes through which the institution establishes that the student who registers in a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the program and receives the academic credit."

So far, it is anyone's guess as to what methods/gadgets they might accept for the required "processes.' Informed people (like Steve Crow of the Higher Learning Commission) have told me that they probably won't dictate methodology, but that we will be required to determine our own processes, communicate them widely, and then follow them. Will that mean requiring proctored exams/assessments? How about fingerprint authentication or retinal scans? Will the Big Brother device used at Troy University become the norm? Ick! Apparently on-ground students (see Stanford U for example) don't need to be authenticated - only those dastardly distance learners.

One things that gripes me about this is that they (Congress) are about 10-12 years late to the party (go figure). This is exactly the concern that was raised in the early days of e-learning, and it has been raised in somewhat decreasing frequency (in my experience) since that time. To my knowledge, there has never been more than just a small amount of anecdotal evidence that this is any kind of a real problem. However, Congress, in it's infinite wisdom is about to again use a sledgehammer for a minor or non-existent problem.

This won't become law until after the House acts and probably then some sort of compromise between the two, but I still think that we should start preparing for how to respond when it becomes a requirement. This is almost certainly going to become law. The pain will be widespread, and very little improvement will be the result. Don't you just love it?

For more, search for S.1642 here: http://thomas.loc.gov/

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it is a great thing for people with disabilities to tele-commute to class so that if they have transportation issues they still have the right to be there. I think this is one oversight on the part of those considering a defense of distance learning.

http://www.change.org/actions?event_id=17577

Hope you can join in the action.