In an interview for its June issue, Virginia Business interviewed University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan about Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). University professors are teaching six MOOCs this year. On the positive side, Sullivan said, the experience is changing how the professors are teaching their classes on the Grounds and promoting the UVa brand around the world.
But there’s one knotty issue the university hasn’t worked out yet:
We have a special issue with the MOOCs, and that’s the honor system. It is known that, in the online environment, cheating is rampant. It’s been difficult to develop ways that you actually know who’s taking an exam.
That’s a legitimate quandary. As far as I’m concerned, the honor code is sacred. Inviolable. It’s a bastion against moral decay and it cannot be compromised. The University of Virginia has systems in place on the Grounds to indoctrinate students and enforce the code. That system cannot possibly be replicated for 20,000 people taking a course around the world.
UVa may have to settle for two standards — one for students physically enrolled at the university and one for everyone else. Unfortunately, if the university cannot vouch for the integrity of online students, it will be understandably reluctant to grant them degrees, as Georgia Tech plans to do in a program I posted about recently. It’s a big issue to work out.