Distance learning has experienced tremendous growth in popularity and acceptance in recent years. As broadband connections have become the standard and technology such as streaming video and video conferencing have become more ubiquitous, distance education has become more robust and accessible to a broader spectrum of the population. Many institutions of higher education are increasingly offering more courses online and even entire degree programs online. This rise in technology has presented not only an opportunity to deliver education to a broader audience, but it has made the delivery of education much more cost-effective.

Occupational training has followed in the footsteps of higher education as well. Corporations have long utilized learning management systems and distance learning tools to offer courses to geographically dispersed employees in a cost-effective manner. Many organizations also rely on distance or computer-based training to deliver required training for more sensitive topics such as company policy requirements and compliance training. This is very common in corporate environments and is also being utilized for safety training and certifying employees and contractors who work in industrial and manufacturing environments. Workers benefit from the flexibility of remote training sessions and employers also benefit from reduced costs of holding multiple in-person training sessions.

Addressing fraud

Unfortunately, this convenience also presents an opportunity to some unscrupulous individuals. Some look at the non in-person factor of online training as an opportunity to either cheat on testing, have another person complete the testing for them, or falsify credentials to gain eligibility for employment. While proper background screening is another issue, certifying and re-certifying individuals for a specific occupational training tasks is another aspect that requires a level of identity verification.

Compliance and reputational risk

The dangers posed by falsification of credentials or testing fraud can have severe consequences. Workers without the proper safety training can become a huge liability to a company. Not to mention the reputational risk a company can endure if faced with someone gaining access to a facility with improper training or credentials.

Know your employee. Know your contractor.

There are many ways organizations can verify the identity and authenticate the person taking a test or certification to deter fraud in online training. Different training scenarios require different levels of verification, however there are a few basic steps that should be followed when verifying a person taking remote training. The first is to identify the test taker. When an identity is verified, this simply says that the identity credentials presented are valid and correct. For example: John Smith lives at 1000 Mockingbird Lane in Odessa, Texas, and his SSN matched his ID credentials. This is a basic step to verify the identity is real and not synthetic. However, these credentials could be stolen, so it is important to authenticate the identity as well.

Authentication involves determining that the credentials presented are being presented by that person and not someone else. This is where the process of Knowledge Based Authentication (KBA) comes in. Simple forms of authentication can ask someone to provide a shared secret, by providing an answer to a predetermined question (example: what is your Mother’s maiden name?). This is known as static KBA. While this is appropriate for less sensitive credentialing, it is not a very effective form of KBA.

A more effective method is to utilize a dynamic KBA method. This is where multiple choice questions are dynamically generated from public record or credit-based data sources. These questions are presented in a manner that only the actual person will know the answers. (example: Which of the following cities have you lived in?). This is common in e-commerce and the financial industry. By using a combination of identity verification and dynamic KBA, organizations can, with great certainty, verify a person’s identity when taking a test. These verification processes are often integrated into a learning management system or at the onset of someone taking testing.

Another form of identity verification — and in some cases this is required by safety organizations — is to capture an image of the test taker’s driver’s license or ID card. Technologies now exist that can capture the ID image from a webcam or even a cell phone camera to verify the authenticity of the ID document and then verify the information on the license and compare it to the input identity information. The ID image can even be matched with an image of the individual through facial matching software to provide another level of identity assurance. All of these identity assets can be used for further scrutiny and to maintain compliance records.

We know it’s you, but are you taking the test?

Once a person’s identity has been verified and authenticated, various methods can be used to determine that the person taking the test is the correct person. One method is to authenticate the person at multiple intervals during the test. The person could be asked to authenticate before, during and after the test. This is done by integrating authentication software into the courseware. Another method is to utilize an online proctoring service. These companies have a live proctor intermittently check in on the person taking the test via webcam to verify that the correct person is taking the test.

Expanding educational opportunities

These are just some of the techniques used to help verify identities and help reduce the occurrence of testing fraud. Technologies continue to evolve and present organizations with many options to help them stop fraud and reduce costs by offering remote training to employees and contractors. Distance training will continue to evolve as well and open many more doors to education and opportunities for companies and educators alike.