|June 15, 2009
Dear JOLT Readers -
Last year the reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (http://www.ed.gov/policy/highered/leg/hea08/index.html) became an issue of great concern for the distance education community. While distance education has always been subject to greater scrutiny than classroom-based instruction, the suggestion that institutions of higher education were not sufficiently ensuring who their online students were and that there was a need for student “authentication” sent waves of panic through the online teaching community and gave producers of costly approaches to confirming identity a reason for celebration. Since one of us is a faculty member teaching in a California community college where the state’s 110 colleges offer a wide array of online opportunities and pride themselves with being accessible – both functionally and financially – our personal concern was great. As the conversations around the topic developed, we were delighted to see a well-respected organization take the lead in re-framing the conversation into what those who are concerned about the quality of online education believed it should be – a discussion of what means faculty use to ensure the identity and integrity of their courses through pedagogy.
The Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET) was quick to respond to this challenge to the viability and availability of distance education. Its 2008 paper “ Are Your Online Students Really the Ones Registered for the Course? Student Authentication Requirements for Distance Education Providers” (http://wiche.edu/attachment_library/Briefing_Paper_Feb_2008.pdf) made the case for ensuring integrity in online offerings as the appropriate response to concerns about student “authentication”. Additional resources on the topic can be found at http://www.wcet.info/2.0/index.php?q=node/1215.
Addressing this issue seemed like an ideal special issue topic for JOLT and we are proud to present an array of manuscripts addressing the theme “Integrity and Identity Authentication in Online Education”. While the outcome of the negotiated rule-making regarding student authentication appears favorable and iris-scans are not in our near future, the topic of ensuring integrity and knowing who our students are in the online realm is a timeless one.
In addition to the five papers in our special section, you will find 20 other papers that deal with a wide variety of topics of interest to the online instructor including Second Life, Artificial Intelligence, Podcasting, and Game-based Learning – to name just a few. We hope you will find a number of papers that interest you!
Michelle Pilati and Ed Perry