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Cyber security steps in to keep academic integrity in check

While some may resist digital evolution, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light how critical online technology is, especially for the education sector with over 1 billion students now learning remotely. Can students proceed with minimal disruptions in this new reality?

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According to UNESCO, school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic affect about 80 % of the world’s students. Amongst the challenges faced with home learning is how to improve academic integrity and prevent online learning fraud. The EU-funded SMOWL project has provided a practical and reliable solution. It allows for the continuity of remote learning using a new cyber-security service that covers the need for continuous, automatic authentication of online user’s identity and monitoring. SMOWL’s technology is based on facial, voice, and keystroke recognition.

Technology helps with online user identity and e-proctoring

With SMOWL’s system, the National University of San Marcos in Peru, one of the most well-known public institutions in South America, was able to administer its admissions exam virtually for the first time in its history. COVID-19 restrictions did not prevent over 10 000 students throughout the country from taking the exam, and now they continue learning remotely. SMOWL has developed the technology to meet the need for online and remote proctoring services. “Our online monitoring tool gives students the credibility of the knowledge acquired, by creating trust in virtual learning environments which translates into a high level of credibility and integrity,” explains Ricardo Vea, CEO and founder of Smowltech.

An adaptable, user-friendly and secure solution

SMOWL can be tailored to the needs of institutions and adapt to their pedagogical methodology. This means monitoring via a webcam, computer, audio recording, and mobile as a second camera among others. “Our focus has always been on building an easy-to-use solution for anyone who wants to learn online. Our system can be fully integrated into the organisation’s platform, so that users can carry out their activities in an online environment with which they are familiar,” says Vea. In addition, SMOWL’s system overcomes geographic and time barriers for those students who have mobility issues, are working and don't have enough time or money to attend in-person training; or have families and schedules that are not compatible. SMOWL allows for the best user experience possible, not only for the student, but for the teacher and supervisor or administrator. This means that the tools do not interrupt users’ activity so they can focus on what is important. Also, the types of incidents detected depend on what each institution agrees to, as they determine and inform the students of the conditions under which they will be supervised and evaluated. Moreover, this technology can be used in a variety of fields, including health, law, economics and engineering. SMOWL system minimises the data capture necessary for its service and fully complies with the European General Data Protection Regulation.

Education and corporate sectors benefit

Educational institutions can tailor SMOWL system giving their students anywhere greater flexibility and credibility to receive online degrees and exams that would otherwise be available only at physical locations. Similarly, the corporate or certification sector can guarantee the integrity of their human resources processes (certifications, internal training, etc.) to their employees, while reducing travel and other associated costs. “We believe in achieving a world with access to academic integrity and quality education, by decreasing the barriers that prevent it, thus creating better opportunities for everyone,” concludes Vea.


SMOWL, academic integrity, online education, proctoring, remote learning

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