Battling Fraud in Distance Learning
Elearning is great because it affords people an opportunity to take courses that they may otherwise not be able to take due to financial or geographic constraints. In childhood education, elearning is being leveraged to present content in different ways, opening up doors to flipped and virtual classrooms.
But as with elearning, there are some negative aspects that accompany the good. Specifically, elearning fraud for distance education at universities.
In 2011, there were at least 100 fraud-ring investigations involving distance learning, compared to just 16 in 2005. Fraud rings often target Pell Grants, federal financial-aid awards that are given out based on the income of the learner and don’t have any pay-back requirements.
According to one report, eight schools disbursed nearly $222 million to more than 42,000 distance learners who did not earn any credits during a payment period.
What Can Be Done?
Organizations implementing distance learning programs should analyze the cost of attendance for the students in distance education programs to verify that any dispersed funds only cover the educational expenses. In addition, these federal funds can be split into smaller amounts.
It is also a good idea for organizations to give a clear definition of what constitutes attendance of distance learners, and in doing so they can adjust the Pell Grants for students who only attend some of the courses in which they enroll.
Finally, these organizations should research and implement robust identity verification mechanisms to minimize the fraudulent claims. One possible way is to implement a form of online proctoring. This could involve scanning a photo ID via a webcam or mobile phone. Verification can even be taken as far as facial recognition, as some technology does exist for this purpose.
As we enter into this new era of elearning dominance in the distance learning environment at educational institutions, it is important that we also keep security and anti-fraud measures current with the trends.