Getting Someone Else to Do Your Coursework for You

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

It is possible for someone other than the registered student to be the person actually doing the work – work for hire, helicopter parent, spouse, boy/girlfriend.  Learn about an emerging technology that uses facial recognition during the course, not just during a test, to validate learner identity and document attendance.


Dr. Mac Adkins is the Founder and Chief Academic Officer of SmarterServices. He has been a higher education administrator for over 25 years and served as a Dean or Director of Distance Education for ten of those years. He has taught in the online doctoral program of Capella University for eight years and has taught online for Troy University for thirteen years. Dr. Adkins received his Doctor of Education degree from Auburn University in 1998. His major for the degree was Educational Leadership. He is a frequent speaker at educational conferences.

Extended Abstract

It is possible for someone other than the registered student to be the person actually doing the work. 

Hired Help – Just like you can buy term papers online, you can pay someone to use your login to do your coursework.  Sometimes this is a student who took the course in a prior term.
Helicopter Parents – Parents are paying tuition and they want to make sure that their student does not get a failing grade. 
Boyfriend or Girlfriend –You want to keep your special friend happy with you, so why not help them out with their online school work.
School Staff – There have been cases of assistant coaches completing the online course assignments for their athletes.

This session will present a report on a pilot of an emerging technology that utilizes facial recognition to verify who is doing the work in an online course.  The process works by initially authenticating that the student is who they say they are by comparing an image of their government-issued photo ID to a database of thousands of high-resolution IDs to ensure the ID is valid.  At the time of this initial authentication, the system takes a baseline image of the student.  That image can then be used multiple times during the online course to compare an image of the person doing the work in the course to the baseline image.  The school is able to control the placement, randomization, and frequency of the verification checks which only take about 15 seconds for the student to complete. 

A tool such as this is useful in helping schools be compliant with accreditation and federal standards for user authentication and attendance. It also helps prevent financial aid fraud.  In 2013 the Office of Inspector General (OIG) performed an audit of eight distance learning programs. Their finding was that the eight schools “disbursed nearly $222 million to more than 42,000 distance education students who did not earn any credits during a payment period.”  AUM was able to validate that the person who enrolled in a course was who they say they are and that they were consistently the person completing the coursework.