Biometrics and security in the education system

An easier way to promote honesty in assessments and security on campus.
One's face is one's fortune.

Biometric technology for voice and facial recognition has quickly embedded itself into our everyday lives. With digital adoption accelerated by the pandemic, what were previously considered activities that could only take place in person are now taking place digitally with greater speed and efficiency. This includes thousands of home loans, billions of social media logins voiceprints and faceprints, and the millions of facial recognition matches being discussed within the federal government that could form a national biometrics database.

Australians are expecting even more of their transactions to be online and virtual throughout the pandemic, with 42 per cent preferring to use biometric to verify their purchase over a pin. This shift in behaviour and preferences extends into the education sector, with the industry having to adapt quickly to remote learning and home-schooling, as well as the somewhat hybrid ways of educating for institutions that have had to switch between in-person and remote learning methods throughout the pandemic.

On top of the challenges of adapting to new ways of working and learning, cyber attacks on the education sector have also been found to specifically take advantage of timeframes when the industry is undergoing a sudden shift online, as was seen at the start of Term 3 in July.

Much like the financial services, media, and government sectors, fast adopters in the education sector will reap the most benefits from adopting biometrics technology, and taking a strategic approach to proactively preventing fraud and identity theft will be critical to ensuring the industry isn’t held back by the threats of bad actors.

Digitising examinations and certifications
Many university exams and assessments have had to be moved online due to COVID, and there are ongoing concerns on deficient one-on-one learning time with teachers being raised about how and when the upcoming HSC exams will take place. For exams that do take place online, educators need to be able to ensure the student taking the exam is who they say they are, from the start to the end of the assessment.

Biometric technology in these scenarios introduces a higher level of security and reliability than traditional systems of inserting a pin or password. Being able to scan a student’s face, fingerprint, or voice can help to ensure the validity of a student when they sign in, throughout the assessment – so they are not able to swap places with another person – and when finalising and submitting the assessment or exam.

Fees and government grant eligibility checks
Traditionally, applying for a grant or confirming eligibility would involve bringing in or sending via mail a broad range of documents to prove one’s identity and eligibility. This can be time and resource-intensive, and also opens the process to potential human errors. By switching to biometric methods and systems, schools and educational institutions can scan and process documents digitally to verify a student’s name, nationality, birth date, and more, verifying a student’s identity in seconds rather than hours.

This frees up staff’s time to work on higher value tasks, and also enables a more seamless process long-term for keeping each student’s information updated as their eligibility and personal information may change over time.

Receiving student passes remotely
Before COVID, universities had to ask students to come onto the campus to create and collect their student passes. Biometric technology can be used to verify students with photos submitted digitally to create the passes, and to verify students are who they say they are when they collect passes. Instead of lining up for hours at a time, this digitised process can alleviate the requirements of staff and mitigate risks of identity theft and fraud.

As the pandemic continues to impact the way educational materials are taught and learned, accurately verifying who students are throughout their educational experiences is critical to a successful and fair system. Biometric technology is already capable of improving student experiences, from enrolment to graduation, and should continue to be explored by educational institutions looking to maintain engagement and popularity in an increasingly competitive industry.