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Ensuring Security and Integrity of Data for Online Assessment August 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anita DeCianni-Brown @ 9:37 am
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Armatas and Colbert cite Weippl (2007) that dependability is the key requirement for e-assessment, which includes availability, reliability, safety, integrity and maintainability. (p. 98)  The key requirements can face challenges as well.  Technology can be an important piece in assessment, which is broken down into 4 key roles:

  • Identification – authentication (provide proof that your are entitled to take the assessment); verification (that you are the person you say you are)
  • Integrity of data – assessment responses are transmitted properly and data is protected from being altered.
  • Access control – technology is used and involves encryption, separating session and version control.
  • Logging and Auditing Data – academics use a range of purposes related to assessment and teaching and learning.

Mechanisms that can help control integrity of online exams include:

  • Use of random questions offered from a question bank – not all students will be given the same questions on the same test, however, all of the questions pertain to the information covered in the lesson.  Even when students are given multiple attempts at tests, the question bank is utilized.
  • Timed tests – even though some instructors allow for an open book test, using a timed test may alleviate cheating in that students do have to know the material in order to complete the exam.  If they use their books, or search the internet, they are still only given a particular time frame, which can minimize cheating.
  • Validation of user identity including user name/password, biometrics and hardware tokens – although students may be required to use a user name and password and security tokens, in an online environment there is still no complete certainty that the person taking the test is who they are supposed to be.  Biometric technology uses fingerprints (physical) or voice (behaviorial) to verify the user.
  • Smartcards – activating a smartcards require that the user must have both the smartcard and the PIN to access the assessment (but does not guarantee user identity).
  • Web cameras – have been suggested as a use in assessment to verify who the user is.

Issues associated with authentication and verification of students, data integrity and access control and monitoring were important in shaping how online assessment was incorporated at Deakin University.  They used a learning management system (LMS) that delivered the assessment.  Students were able to access it via their user name and password.  It allowed a convenience for students in being able to upload their information and the use of the LMS allowed for the development of review tests.

There is still much to be done in order to keep the integrity of online assessments/tests.  However, the integrity issues also exists in a traditional classroom.  With the use of cellphones, as well as other more “primitive” means (writing on one’s hand, keeping a cheat/crib sheet in a hidden location), paying someone else to write a paper – cheating exists outside of just the online environment.


Armatas, C. and Colbert, B. (2009). Ensuring security and integrity of data for online assessment. E-Learning Technologies and Evidence-Based Assessment Approaches. Information Science Reference: New York.


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