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Being Remotely Credible – What Will Truly Increase the Trustworthiness of Online Education?

July 10, 2015
There’s been much discussion recently about the credibility of degrees (and credentials) earned through online education. After all the hard work (and financial investiture), a question over the trustworthiness of a credential is a discussion that no institution, student or professional ever wants to have.

Earlier this year, an op-ed in the New York Times written by Kevin Carey, “Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official,” explored the topic of online education credibility. In the article he discusses the relationship between online credentials and their trustworthiness and value. According to Carey, until online credentials become more ‘official’ their quality will continue to be questioned.

Enter now the discussion about solutions that protect the integrity of the assessments delivered online. Here’s an excerpt from the November 4, 2015 Atlantic article “Cheating in Online Classes is a Big Business”:

“. . . If online degrees and certifications achieve the same stature as traditional, on-campus ones, an online education marketplace could transform higher education and change the very meaning of going to college. That’s exactly what some some online education advocates want . . .”

This is what Kevin Carey picked at in his op-ed piece in The New York Times.

While Carey writes “degrees give meaning and structure to collections of college courses”, we believe proctoring solutions that stop academic dishonesty online give quality and integrity to the degree, or collection of credentials earned online.

We’re not alone in our belief. In Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Education 2015, they state “Good digital assessment is a necessity for trustworthy and scalable online or hybrid (digitalized) education.”

Case in point – Software Secure hosted a webinar along with eCampusNews on November 4, 2015 featuring two speakers from nursing schools at The University of South Alabama and Samford University. Academic integrity in the nursing  field is an imperative. Stated Dr. Tracey Taylor-Overholts, “Nursing has been ranked as one of Gallup’s most trusted professions for  13 years straight. Which is why at USA CON, academic integrity is of paramount importance at the College of Nursing.” During this webinar, the two universities discussed what they were doing to assure the integrity of their online nursing programs. Because in their business, if a student cheats and gets away with it – downstream, the patient (and that could be YOU) is now at risk. So beyond institutional brand and reputation – academic dishonesty impacts everyone.

The reality: It’s going to take some time for ‘online trustworthiness’ to develop. Technology solutions alone are not a panacea to solving the credibility problem in online education – but definitely part of the solution. A real world example of how the world of MOOCs and traditional education recognize that –  is evidenced by the edX/Arizona State University collaboration – the Global Freshman Academy. This high profile institution decided to make RPNow a cornerstone of their offering –and by doing so adding to its credibility – and integrity.



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