Barton Community College may soon use biometric identification to make sure online students are actually doing their own coursework and not paying someone else to sit in on classes and tests.
Dean of Information Services Charles Perkins and Associate Dean of Distance Learning Angie Sullivan presented information Tuesday to the BCC Board of Trustees. BioSig-ID software uses students’ unique handwriting to verify identity continuously from registration to completion of a course. This protects academic integrity and prevents student loan fraud. Sullivan said there is a growing need for this kind of technology in higher education. According to a national survey, 75 percent of college students say they’ve cheated on a quiz or test at least once.
More online students also creates more opportunities for student loan fraud, she noted.
A few years ago Barton created a new grade, “XF,” which signifies failure due to cheating. The number of students “earning” this grade increased from two in 2014 to 14 last year, and so far this school year 11 students have gotten an XF. The college also uses software to help teachers spot plagiarized papers and it uses other methods to discourage or catch cheating.
With Bio-Sig, a student may use a mouse or touch pad to “sign in” with a symbol or number from time to time during a test or quiz. The software will reportedly recognize a faked signature.
The deans said they’d like to put Bio-Sig in use by July 1, with board approval. It will cost about $60,000 to monitor 7,000 online students next year.
“If their intent is to cheat, we’d prefer they didn’t take our course,” Perkins said.
Perkins also introduced representatives from Nex-Tech Inc., the Leonora-based broadband and technology company. Last November, Nex-Tech bought the building at 3700 10th St. in Great Bend to support a $1.7 million fiber-optic expansion project here.
The college’s telephone system contract expires this summer and Nex-Tech is proposing to replace some 300 phones in building on campus and at Great Bend, Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, Perkins said.
Sales Supervisor Mark St. Peter spoke to trustees Tuesday, noting the fiber-optic cable being installed as well as Nex-Tech’s presence in the community.
Perkins said the college’s old phone system, which uses a mixture of companies, “goes down every two weeks.” Nex-Tech has been working with the college since its expansion got underway.
“In today’s IT environment, we need specialized support,” Perkins said. Nex-Tech will offer a five-year lease agreement that includes initial training and 24/7 support. If paid in monthly installments, the cost will be about $70,000 a year.
That will be about $10,000 a year more than the college now pays, Perkins said, but he also said it will actually save money overall. At the end of five years, the college will have options that include continued service.
If the trustees approve the agreement at the next business meeting, the company could have a new system installed before the fall semester starts, St. Peter said.