This post, the second in a series on academic integrity technologies, looks at the security benefits of biometric technology.
From K-12 to higher ed and even in corporate training, assessment is increasingly moving online. Whether it’s deterring cheating during student exams or verifying someone’s identity during employee assessments, enforcing academic integrity online is becoming a vital priority for educators. This post, looking at the benefits of biometrics, is the second in a series on how technology is keeping learners honest online.
Biometrics are hitting the big time in the education industry. According to a 2015 report from market research company Technavio, biometrics in the U.S. education sector is set to become a $70 million market by 2019. That’s a growth rate of almost 30%.
Biometrics enable body-based security – technology that authenticates identity based on physical characteristics such as fingerprints, irises, facial structure, voice and even gestures. With its capabilities and applications, biometric technology has become a useful tool for instructors looking to enforce academic integrity in light of learning’s continued migration into the online realm, but it also offers significant security benefits beyond that.
Biometrics are often facilitated through learning platforms and used in conjunction with scalable, automated online proctoring solutions. Usually, they authenticate online learners’ identities using facial recognition by way of webcams. The technology not only deters cheating during online assessments and exams, it also makes online education, professional development and training more accessible.
Learners can take tests online at their convenience rather than having to take them in person in a testing centre. They’re spared the costs and inconvenience involved in travel, and the immediacy helps them to prevent knowledge loss leading up to the test.
The tech tends to be thorough too. Not only does biometric tech authenticate a test taker’s identity against an original profile at the beginning of the test, it will often be used to re-authenticate them multiple times throughout the assessment.
Biometrics are also being used to take proctoring beyond testing to ensuring the integrity of online course attendance, allowing instructors to confirm that learners sitting in on an online course are who they say they are.
Biometric-enabled security is also becoming bigger on campuses. More and more, registrars are using the technology to authenticate student identities upon enrollment. A recent EdTech magazine article listed “the growing importance of security” as a top higher ed tech trend for 2017, citing a University Business survey that said 81% of respondents said they will use tech like biometric access to boost physical security on campus.
“Everything a student does throughout their time at a school that needs security can be done with [biometric] authentication,” says Frank Mann, CEO of biometric technology company Biomids, a D2L partner. “They signed up and paid for a lunch program; they can be biometrically authenticated. They live in a dorm; they can gain access based on their biometrics. These things are part-and-parcel of the education system.”
Similarly, enterprise organizations are increasingly using biometrics to secure employee access to authorized PCs, office apps, email and website logins, moving security reliability past passwords, which must be updated often and are also often a hassle for help desks. This helps them to increase efficiency, productivity, reduce costs and improve convenience by assuring easy access, reducing risk from password sharing or theft, saving time by eliminating the need for password re-entry and limiting exposure to data breach fines and penalties.
The future of biometric-enabled security looks more and more like it will be about upping the secure sign-on game with multi-factor authentication, a.k.a. multimodal biometrics – using a combination of two or more physical characteristics to confirm someone’s identity.
A 2017 report from Technavio, for example, identified multimodal biometrics as one of four top trends that will spur biometrics adoption in the global banking, financial services and insurance sector.
Click here to learn about six benefits of online proctoring tools.
Click here to learn about anonymous grading.