Some online programs, such as ones affiliated with the University of Maryland and Colorado’s community colleges, avoid high-stakes final exams and instead use frequent, smaller-scale assessments. They also encourage online interaction that helps teachers detect a sudden improvement in their students’ writings or unusual changes in the class chat room postings.

EdX, the not-for-profit MOOC consortium founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last year, opts for exams at commercial centers with proctors in the room if a student is seeking credit.

Anant Agarwal, the MIT professor who is edX president, said he does not think cameras are as effective as the trained human eye and that his group wanted “something everyone was used to and believed in.”

The University of the People, a Pasadena, Calif.-based online school that brings low-cost courses to students around the world, relies on volunteer proctors with standing in local communities. Among them are a minister in Brazil, a professor in India, and Teresa Lane, manager of a small library in Morristown, Tenn.

Lane said she signed up to proctor one young man’s tests because she wants to help untraditional students return to school.

“I think online education can definitely work, but everyone has to cooperate and give it a chance,” Lane said.

(c) 2013, the Los Angeles Times, with additional reporting from eCampus News. Visit the Los Angeles Times online at Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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