Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Information Security in Education: Are We Continually Improving?

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Information Security in Education: Are We Continually Improving?

Article excerpt


Technology has contributed to the rapid growth of the offering of online courses in education. In a presentation made by Tim Berners-Lee, at a TED Talks conference (Berners-Lee, 2014), offered that now 1 in 3 higher education students take at least one online course every semester.

Technological advances have been rapidly taking place and will continue to do so. W Edwards Deming posits that training is essential to Total Quality Management (TQM) but is the training to those involved in the field of education sufficient, and are sufficient systems being developed to safeguard information that is being used to assess student achievement? There are situations where I have firsthand knowledge that there are sufficient precautions but I also have evidence that we in the field of education are falling woefully short.

It was my great honor to have been recruited by the EDUCATIONAL TESTING SERVICE (ETS)--College Board to serve on a three to four person committee with the responsibility for constructing and selecting questions to be used on the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam in the field of Information Systems. I consider it an honor as ETS must have felt -that I had sufficient expertise in the area but also felt that my ethical practices were acceptable, as I would have access to questions and answers appearing on exams, and I would do all that I could possibly do in order to safeguard the security of the CLEP questions. Although our committee met occasionally in person at the ETS campus in Princeton, New Jersey, we often communicated via email. Through email we suggested questions and answers and commented on questions and answers that others submitted. However, we used data encryption of all material that was sent. There was a need for public and private keys to decrypt the questions that were sent. The encryption program we used was Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) from PGP Corporation. However, in 2010 Symantec Corporation acquired PGP for 300 million dollars.

I learned the importance of statistical testing of potential answers as the "wrong" answers must not be answers that nobody without knowledge of the topic would select, but answers that someone with inadequate knowledge of the topic might mistakenly select. Taking part in this process, as I served under contract for three years, made me quite aware of the deficiencies of many of the existing multiple-choice questions that are sometimes included in test banks and coupled with textbooks. A team of statisticians for ETS did rigorous pretesting of suggested questions to insure the reliability and validity of each question and set of answers before they could be selected to appear on the actual version of the CLEP exam in Information Systems. Yet too often, because of large class sizes, objective multiple-choice exams are given and software such as Blackboard is promoted in order to assess students in large classes. This process may lead to even larger classes where security may become an even bigger issue. There is a faculty member who is my colleague and who is teaching more than 400 students this semester, with one class having more than 200 students. We do not have a doctoral program and there is no Teaching Assistant. He is forced to rely on multiple-choice tests with automated grading.

In this research I will present cases that provide evidence that security has been breached a number of times in the field of education to justify that there is a need to study this topic based on past experiences. Then the prevalence of existing data banks will be discussed. Sources will be given where many test banks can currently be purchased which provide answers to questions that are used from test banks. And many faculty members use test banks as creating and testing their own questions taking into consideration the pretesting them for reliability and validity of each question would be an arduous task which might also necessitate the teaming with a statisticians to complete the process. …

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