Academic Authenticity - Owlbot Style Preserving the Integrity of the Degree with Owlbot, OUR UNIVERSITY’s Webcrawler How One Online University Protects Assessments with Unique Web Patrol

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

How one online university protects assessments with unique web patrol

This Discovery session explores the tool used to search for posts of copyrighted and proprietary material demonstrating innovative assessment security of test items. 


Amy is a former educator teaching special education and regular education at the elementary, high school and collegiate levels for a combination of 19 years . Amy came to WGU in March of 2015 as a part-time employee evaluating student papers in the Teacher's College before joining the Assessment Security and Authenticity team full-time in Fall 2015. Working for WGU is extremely rewarding; knowing that you are part of the incredible WGU experience and help protect the integrity of the WGU degree is exciting each and every day.

Extended Abstract

Web Patrol– How one university monitors the web

Owlbot is the name given to the Webcrawler that was developed in joint effort of our university and a third-party vendor.  Owlbot is an electronic, safe way for team members to crawl the web looking for proprietary or copyrighted material.

It is used at the university level with Owlbot being monitored by the Web Patrol team portion of Academic Authenticity, however, the benefits of this resource are felt university wide as anyone who finds proprietary material on the internet can contact Academic Authenticity who will investigate the given information.

Our university has a group of investigators who patrol the internet for proprietary or copyrighted material and information including papers or our brand.  This group conducts “Web Patrol” searches both manually and using the Webcrawler Owlbot.  The Owlbot has been programmed with various details based on our needs and utilized by various members of the team and tracks over 600 sites.

DMCAs, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, are used by the group in conjunction with the legal department.  In the year 2018 there were 325 DMCAs sent with 18,812 URLs taken down from the efforts.


OUR UNIVERSITY’s WebcrawlerOwlbot explained

The Owlbot contains keywords and phrases and crawls certain sites as determined by the Assessment Security team leadership.  During the crawls, sites are tagged for manual review by Web Patrol Investigators.  When a link is found that contains information that is copyrighted and proprietary material, a DMCA is sent to the site requesting removal of said copyrighted and proprietary material with legal support.


Dashboard Explanation of Owlbot What the pieces mean.



In the dashboard of Owlbot the user can quickly see the number of mapped websites in total the Webcrawler has programmed as well as the number of new websites.  The categories and keywords are our specific online assessment names and test items.  The secure Webcrawler ensures that high stakes test items are not leaked on to the internet exposing university information.  In the dashboard there are graphs easily read showing the Crawling Statistics and the Process Statistics.



In the lower portion of the Dashboard, Owlbot shows the overview of information Not Archived as opposed to Archived as well as DMCA Statistics and DMCA Monthly Report.  The Dashboard can be navigated to go to the specific crawl to see what information is specifically found and what decision can be made regarding the discovery and final decision of results which are “Marked For DMCA, Marked For Revisit, or Marked For Ignore.”


Owlbot in Action – Demonstration of the Owlbot Webcrawler

Owlbot will be demonstrated with interaction of attendees.  A live demonstration and the use of the tool by the attendees will be provided with the use of a test version of the Owlbot application loaded to allow for attendees to search for their own information using a touch screen computer.

Personal Reflection

What does the phrase “Academic Authenticity” mean for you and your institution?

What responsibility does an online university have for protecting the integrity of the student’s degree through the use of web patrol?

Group Discussion; Q and A