Authentication as a Bridge between Candidate and Credential

Streamed Session HBCU

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Brief Abstract

Bridges can be gatekeepers allowing only appropriate persons to pass over.  Learner authentication can be a gatekeeper making sure that only persons who have actually done the work in a course are awarded the credit.  Grambling University is a HBCU that is using facial recognition to ensure learner authentication. 


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

Bridges not only provide access from one side to the other, but they can also be used as gatekeepers to ensure that only appropriate persons are allowed to cross.  For any individual to cross the crevasse that is higher education, they must pass over several bridges to move to the side of the bank where a college degree is a recognized credential demonstrating competency.  One such bridge is the bridge of learner authentication.

A person should only reach the bank on which a college degree is awarded if an only if they are indeed the person who did the work to cross the bridge.  Learner authentication is the gatekeeper on the bridge to ensure that the right person is crossing the bridge and receiving the degree.  Facial recognition can be the emerging technology used for verification.

It is possible for someone other than the registered student to be the person actually doing the work to cross the bridge. 
Helicopter Parents – Parents are paying tuition and they want to make sure that their student does not fall off the bridge by getting a failing grade. 
Boyfriend or Girlfriend –You want to keep your special friend happy with you, so why not help them cross the bridge by doing their online school work.
Hired Help – Just like you can buy term papers online, you can pay someone to use your login to do your course work.  Sometimes this is a student who took the course in a prior term who attempts to cross the bridge for fellow students.
School Staff – There have been cases of assistant coaches completing the online course assignments for their athletes, in essence carrying them across the bridge.

This session will present a report on the implementation of an emerging technology that utilizes facial recognition to verify who is doing the work in the online courses at Grambling State University.  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 this HBCU 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.”  Grambling 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 course work.