Ending Mystery Learners with Identity Verification Systems

Newsweek Article on Identity Verification

Ending Mystery Learners with Identity Verification Systems
By Christian Gainsbrugh, CoFounder and CTO of LearningCart - Featured in Newsweek Expert Forum

Being able to learn anywhere, any time, on almost any device has moved from novelty to normalcy over the last few years. From universities and providers of continuing education to associations and corporations, the acceptance of learning outside of the traditional classroom seems universal.

Technology has solved many of the challenges around making learning content available to students and managing virtual classes. With all the solutions technology provides, a larger and even ominous challenge has presented itself — verifying that you are credentialing, certifying and passing the student who has actually done the work. A new wave of solutions entering the mainstream purview aims to do exactly that by utilizing a combination of big data, artificial intelligence and remote human intervention. These solutions are dubbed identity verification systems (IVS) and their goal is to help educators and institutions better ensure online students are truly the ones doing the work they ultimately will be given credit for.

For institutions of higher learning, it's important to ensure the value of their degrees is not diminished by a system that doesn't ensure that graduates are of an appropriate caliber. As distance education becomes more and more commonplace, without the proper checks and balances, it will be easy for organizations to unwittingly become essentially diploma mills as people look to game the system. The stakes are even higher when it comes to training pertaining to medical and job site safety. There are important reasons why organizations such as OSHA and state licensing boards require ongoing training. At the same time, it's not unheard of in those industries for managers to simply do the training for their employees instead of pulling them off the job. This has become such a concern that state licensing boards are increasingly requiring some form of IVS for a course to be credentialed. For example,the Texas Association of Realtors requires any provider of distance learning to use identity verification to verify the name of their student.

A Common Practice Jumps Over to Education

One common IVS approach takes a page out of something the financial industry has been doing for decades. By leveraging big data, a user is presented with personalized questions garnered from various data sources. These questions are then interspersed throughout learning or quizzes and presented to users with a short amount of time to answer.

Common questions can be based on the types of cars the student has driven previously (pulled from insurance datasets), the location the student may have lived (pulled from property and rental history data sets) and digits from their current or previous phone numbers (pulled from phone provider datasets). If the student does not answer the questions in the allowed amount of time, their account can then be locked for manual verification.

The goal of this approach is to provide a diversity of questions that a random person would not know and could not easily be provided in advance to the student.

Another form of IVS is akin to remote proctoring. Before beginning their training, a student is required to activate their web camera and then verify their identity using their camera and an identifying document such as a license or passport. This information is then reviewed in real time by a live person. The student can then be periodically and remotely monitored during their training to ensure it is them doing the work. This process, although extremely thorough, is extremely expensive and resource-intensive.

The Next Generation

The next generation of IVS solutions, being built now, are incorporating more extensive use of artificial intelligence. They provide the best of both worlds, blending the accuracy of comparing a user to a known identity, while not requiring human intervention. As AI becomes more widely available, more solutions will be able to perform more advanced comparative analysis. They will be able to fully automate the entire process of the initial validation of a student's identity (from a license or password) to automatically capture images from the student's web camera and make sure the person completing the training is the appropriate individual.

More and more IVS solutions are being integrated directly into learning management systems or offered as a plug-in that can be bolted onto existing systems. Legacy platforms generally lag behind when it comes to effectively adopting these sorts of newer technologies, so we are likely several years from IVS becoming extremely common in larger school-wide systems.

Learning outside the classroom is a core part of the "new normal" and something that will inevitably continue to gain traction over the coming years. IVS solutions are intended to provide an effective way to help organizations ensure that the value of their credentials are not diminished in such a remote environment. As distance learning continues to grow, so too will the implementation of IVS technology.

Tags: Newsweek Expert Forum, Article
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