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More than 22,500 European university students have taken part in a project to verify the identities of students doing online assessment activities

Foto: UOC

Foto: UOC

03/07/2019
Anna Snchez-Jurez
The TeSLA project concludes its research by establishing a European quality framework for online assessment

A total of 22,941 bachelor’s and master's degree students and 457 teachers have been involved in pilot tests run by the TeSLA  (Adaptive Trust-based E-assessment System for Learning) project all across Europe. This initiative, which concluded this year, has contributed to the development and testing of a student identity validation system for online learning activities. The TeSLA project belongs to a consortium made up of 18 institutions led by the UOC. Its achievements include the establishment of a European quality framework for online assessment.

The initiative, implemented over the course of the past three and a half years and funded by the European Commission with a budget of more than €7 million, includes a system which uses biometric verification techniques, such as face and voice recognition, in addition to other instruments that record keystroke rhythms, detect plagiarism and analyse language and writing styles to authenticate the identity of students doing online learning activities. In order to verify the reliability of the system, the research team conducted three pilot tests between 2016 and 2018 in seven European universities (including the UOC) based in six different countries.

Over the course of that period, the TeSLA system was applied in 809 assessment activities related to a range of different fields of knowledge (arts and humanities, engineering and architecture, health sciences, sciences, and social and legal sciences) and spanning 441 courses. "The pilot tests have played an essential role in seeing how the system works across different places Europe and how it adapts to the different evaluation models", explained project coordinator and researcher with the Technology-Enhanced Knowledge and Interaction Group (TEKING) group, Ana Elena Guerrero.

Within the results, students reported that the system saved them time, improved flexibility and, above all, proved that the activities had been completed by them. "For students, TeSLA represents a way of increasing the prestige and credibility of their online degree programmes, because it certifies their identity and demonstrates the fact that no one else has done their work for them", the expert pointed out.

TeSLA has been adapted for people with special educational needs. A total of 861 of the students who participated in the tests suffer from motor or mobility impairments, blindness or visual impairments, deafness or hearing loss, or specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, chronic illness or psychosocial issues, among others. "There has been a positive response from students in this type of situation, as the system allows them to complete activities at home and provides access to the same opportunities as their peers, as well as helping to prevent people from dropping out of education all together", said Guerrero.

The teaching staff involved in the study also emphasized the usefulness of the TeSLA system, praising its modularity in particular, as it allows higher education institutions to decide which tools should be activated for each learning activity. The system, the UOC researcher pointed out, is versatile and simple to apply to any kind of activity, without altering the learning objective.

 

The creation of a European quality framework for online assessment

The scope of the project extends beyond IT development and carries out an educational analysis on how to design online learning activities, as well as evaluating those which are the best in terms of being able to connect the relevant instruments. "In that sense. the initiative has served to train the teaching staff and has led to the development of a range of educational guides in various languages so that both the members of the consortium and other educational centres are able to exploit the system’s  full potential", explained Guerrero. Based on the results of the 800 activities that have been tested, seven specific case studies have been identified to be used as teaching guides.

TeSLA has also received the seal of approval of some fifty external experts representing a variety of areas of knowledge, forty of which are affiliated with quality assurance organizations. The project complies with all the university quality standards, as well as respecting any relevant data protection, ethical and technological issues. As a result of these assessments, the project has established a European quality framework for online assessment.

Once the research programme has been completed, the intention is to provide access to an open version of the online assessment system that higher education institutions will be able to download, and, in the future, it is likely that it will also be marketed internationally in relation to professional consulting services, such as system installation or operational training for academic staff. "Online and blended learning universities having access to a system like TeSLA completes the cycle of online education by facilitating the remote verification of the assessment process", the coordinator concluded.

 

The consortium

The consortium, with more than sixty professionals dedicated to working on this project, is made up of ten universities, two research centres, three quality assurance agencies and three technology companies, as listed below:

 

Universities

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) - Spain

University of Namur (UNamur) - Belgium

Open Universiteit Nederlands (OUNL) - Netherlands

Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski (SU) - Bulgaria

The Open University (OU) - United Kingdom

Imperial College of London (Imperial) - United Kingdom

Technical University of Sofia (TUS) - Bulgaria

Anadolu University (AU) - Turkey

University of Jyvskyl (JYU) - Finland

Institut Mines-Tlcom (IMT) - France

 

Research centres

National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE) - Mexico

Idiap Research Institute (Idiap) - Switzerland

 

Quality agencies

European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education's (ENQA) - Belgium

Catalan University Quality Assurance Agency (AQU Catalunya) - Spain

European Quality Assurance Network for Informatics Education (EQANIE)

 

Technology firms

LPLUS GmbH - Germany

Protos Sistemas de Informacin, SL (protOS) - Spain

WFSW, SA (Watchful) - Portugal

 

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under No 688520 Grant Agreement.

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