Friday, July 18, 2008

Clarifying Language Can Be So Clarifying

There has been a tremendous amount of angst (much of it generated by me) about the distance education language that is expected to be included in the Higher Education Act whenever that finally gets approved (probably by September). I'm at the ITC Board Meeting in Reno this week along with a colleague who has an inside track to information about the work being done on the clarifying language that will be attached to the bill. The ITC, and Fred Lokken in particular, has been instrumental in bringing attention to the many concerns related to the authentication of distance learner language that is currently included in the bill. Most of those arguments center around concerns about cost and availability of the technologies to accomplish this task. Much of that angst was based on speculation about what it means to authenticate who the distance learner is.

The latest language in the bill goes something like this: "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."

That is the language that has had everyone tied up in knots about whether that means test proctoring for everything, the big brother 360 degree camera device such as used at Troy University, the data analytics stuff that is growing in usage, or some other authentication method. According to Fred (and this comes straight from the office of his senator who is an author of the bill), that at this time the level of authentication that they are seeking is along the lines of username and password.

The clarifying language (currently) for that section of the bill reads as follows:
",,,,the bill requires accrediting agencies and associations to ensure that institutions offering distance education programs have processes by which they establish that the student who registers is the same student who participates in and completes the program. The Committee expects institutions that offer distance education today to have security mechanisms in place, such as identification numbers or other pass code information required to be used each time the student participates in class time or coursework on-line. In time, as technology develops, the Committee anticipates that additional identification technologies will become more sophisticated, less expensive and more mainstream."

1 comment:

Mike Jortberg said...

identity verification solutions are used all over financial services today. It is very mainstream and we beleive costs less than $10 per student per year.

http://chronicle.com/free/v54/i46/46a00103.htm