Trust in online authentication tools for online assessment in both formal and informal contexts

Edwards, C.; Whitelock, D.; Okada, A. and Holmes, W. (2018). Trust in online authentication tools for online assessment in both formal and informal contexts. In: ICERI2018 Proceedings (Gómez Chova, L.; López Martínez, A. and Candel Torres, I. eds.), 12-14 Nov 2018, Seville, Spain, IATED Academy, pp. 3754–3762.


With the advent of MOOCs and other informal learning spaces such as Open Learn, hosted by the Open University of the UK, there is now increasing pressure to authenticate the learners gaining accreditation through assessment from these systems. Successful methods of authentication within these environments will likely be based on tools that can integrate seamlessly with students’ learning and its assessment. A European Commission funded project, TeSLA (, brings eighteen partners together to develop and trial a suite of instruments to deliver this through an e-authentication approach.

TeSLA comprises of five instruments: facial recognition, forensic analysis of writing, keystroke dynamics, plagiarism detection, voice recognition. Within the studies, we undertook a trial of the plagiarism detection instrument with around 1000 formal students studying at the University and 600 informal students. In this context formal learners are studying for higher education credit and informal learners are not.

This paper describes the findings and what they tell us about student trust in e-authentication in the formal and informal online distance learning contexts. In addition to free text responses, we consider the statistical findings from before and after questionnaires and how they relate to the theoretical framework of the Technology Acceptance Model (Mortenson and Vidgen, 2016) where trust is a prerequisite to the ultimate effectiveness of such advances.

Our main findings are that the trust of students, even within a well-respected institution, towards these tools cannot be assumed and taken for granted. There are also layers of trust, from trust in the institution to trust that an individual’s personal data will always be respected and secure. Future work will aim to explore these aspects of trust in greater detail.

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