Faculty Perceptions Regarding Authentication of Online Students’ Identities and Academic Dishonesty

Stephanie R. McMillan

Advisor: John S O'Connor, PhD, School of Integrative Studies

Committee Members: Lesley Smith, James G. McDaniel

Enterprise Hall, #418
June 29, 2012, 11:00 AM to 08:00 AM


This study explored undergraduate teaching faculty’s perceptions regarding using biometric technologies to reduce academic dishonesty in online classes. The first objective was to develop a baseline of the respondents’ concerns toward and experience with using biometrics; attitudes, experience, and mitigation strategies used to reduce academic dishonesty in their classrooms; and perceptions toward using current authentication measures to validate students’ online identities. The next objective was to explore faculty’s perceptions toward using specific biometric identifiers to reduce specific dishonest academic behaviors. Data was collected from 151 undergraduate faculty with experience teaching online and knowledge of academic dishonesty using a 25-item web-based survey. Data from the survey was numerically coded and entered into Minitab for analysis. Grouped frequency distributions and chi-square analyses were employed to analyze results regarding biometric identifiers (fingerprint, iris scan, voice recognition, and signature dynamics) and dishonest academic behaviors (aiding and abetting, cheating on test, fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, unauthorized access, and unfair advantage).

The analysis of descriptive statistics and an analysis of means revealed several issues. First, faculty did not appear overly concerned about using biometrics in the academic environment. Second, there are perceived problems with academic dishonesty in online courses at both the institutional and individual course levels. Finally, regardless of the type of biometric identifier being examined, faculty expressed (a) agreement that biometric technologies could reduce unauthorized access in online classes, and (b) disagreement about using biometric technologies to reduce plagiarism in the same environment. Additional chi-square testing determined statistically significant differences in the levels of agreement among subgroups who were assigned to a single university versus members of a professional network assigned to multiple institutions, had prior experience using biometrics versus none, and previously encountered specific dishonest academic behaviors versus those who had not.

The potential areas of faculty resistance or acceptance this study identified could help institutions determine appropriate strategies to integrate biometric technologies into online teaching and learning processes as an option to reduce academic dishonesty. The results can also assist in developing training materials and professional development opportunities targeting specific areas of limited knowledge or causes for concern. Furthermore, understanding faculty’s perceptions on using these biometric technologies could facilitate discussion among higher education administrators on the potential benefits of acquiring and deploying biometric-based authentication tools.