This article appeared in Ed Tech magazine.
As more colleges shift to online courses and exams, the potential for cheating grows. But new technology is on the rise that authenticates students' identities with something that can’t be shared — their bodies.
Colleges are using biometric authentication to leap past the days of PINs and passwords.
With the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner on the Apple iPhone 5S in 2013 and Samsung’s Galaxy S5 in 2014, a key biometric technology has already gone mainstream. Using this and other unique body identifiers as authentication, there are a variety of ways biometrics can be implemented to change or augment security measures.
Biometric Signature ID, a Lewisville, Texas, company, has found some success in higher education through its eponymous handwriting and gesture-based security program.
BioSig-ID builds a profile for each student based on how they write, sign or gesture using a pen or mouse. This profile is used for comparison when the student takes an online test.
Another authentication feature of the program asks students to memorize a sequence of clicks made on an image. In one example, an image of a kitchen had three apples. Students would click on each apple in a sequence. The image is then tilted and students would click on those same apples again at a different angle.
Security in use at Georgia Southern University takes a different approach to biometrics — one generally associated with private security systems and the military.
While waiting in line at the school’s dining halls, students forgo swiping the traditional plastic ID card, and instead look into an iris scanner for less than two seconds to confirm their identity. Implementing five such iris scanners at the university cost about $35,000, according to CR80 News, which covers campus identification and security technology.
The iris system has authenticated more than 375,000 transactions since being deployed in August 2013, CR80 News reports.
Mark Sarver, CEO of eduKan, a consortium of community colleges that offer online courses and degrees, says the group has been using biometric scanning to authenticate more than 10,000 students over the past three years. He told eCampus News that the technology has proved to be cost-effective and transparent to students.
The costs associated with certain biometric technologies can be a barrier to entry for some colleges, CR80 News reports. Faster iris scanners cost more, but prices fall with response time. The technology adopted by Georgia Southern reads irises in under two seconds, which is slower than other models, but just fine for those waiting in line.
Though many biometric technologies, such as fingerprint scanners, have been around for decades, their usage has been growing as the components become more prevalent and affordable. The incorporation of these technologies in higher education environments is a result of their growing acceptance, bolstered by a new movement in building securities to incorporate less invasive measures.
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“People have been talking about this for decades as the future, but I think the technology is finally good enough and invisible enough that people will start to embrace it,” says Robert McCrie, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the former director of the school’s Security Management Institute.