Cameras stop cheating in virtual classrooms

High-tech surveillance keeps online students honest

ORLANDO, Fla. - Eileen Jordan is living a double-life and she wouldn't have it any other way.

The mother of three works at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford by day and attends virtual college at night attending classes via her laptop at the kitchen table.

"There's no way in the world I could go back to school as a traditional student," Jordan says.

Jordan is one of roughly 38,000 working adults studying at a very non- traditional institution.

The Western Governors University, a non-profit virtual college offers online classes, exams and CIA style security complete with surveillance cameras to make sure cheating is not an option.

The exams can be taken at college test centers offered at locations like Valencia College or the University of Central Florida.

The other option, the privacy of your own home, requires a portable camera that hooks up to your computer and watches your every move. WGU provides a camera to its students free of charge.

The pre-test security check includes facial recognition and keystroke confirmation much like a high tech signature.

Michelle Gutierrez is an online proctor for WGU she says even with a camera pointed at them students have tried to cheat and they've gotten caught.

"We have seen students put notes up on the wall," she says.

The college test centers are lined with rows of cubicles and computers.
Security cameras peer down on students as they type in a password and begin the exams which can range from and hour to four hours or more depending on the subject.

Valenica's test centers use a computer program called "Respondus Lockdown" the system locks you into the test site and blacks any access to the web.

Despite the obvious intrusion many students who have chosen virtual higher education say convenience is worth the "big brother" protocol.

"You no longer have to go to a brick and mortar campus to achieve a certain result," Jordan says, " you can receive that result right here in your own home."

Most colleges and universities offer online classes. The University of Florida, Florida State University , The University of Central Florida and Valencia College offer classes on campus and online.

During the fall semester of 2012, 13,871 students attending Valencia College were taking at least one online class while the additional course work was handled with conventional classes on campus.

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