New ASU, edX program turns to a unique virtual proctoring solution.

proctoring-verification-edXOffering online courses for credit is a unique endeavor for each institution, but the fundamentals are the same: To offer courses for credit, you need to verify student I.D. and protect against exam cheating. But how can a program do this most efficiently and successfully?

According to Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, one answer lies in the ability of a virtual proctoring solution’s decoupling of exam taking from proctoring verification.

“The solution we choose for this program is unique because instead of having thousands of employees monitor a live video stream of student exam taking, the video is stored in the cloud and watched offline at a later time,” said Agarwal in an interview with eCampus News. “What this means is that students around the world, in any time zone and at any time can take their online exam.”

He continued, saying that if the new program at Arizona State University (ASU) is successful, one major reason for that success will be the decoupling capability of the software solution.

(Next page: edX’s program at ASU; making an online course credit-worthy)

The Global Freshman Academy

ASU and edX recently announced the Global Freshman Academy (GFA), what the partners say is a first-of-its-kind program that offers an innovative entry point to an undergraduate degree.

The Global Freshman Academy will give learners anywhere in the world the opportunity to earn freshman-level university credit after successfully completing a series of digital immersion courses hosted on edX, designed and taught by scholars from ASU.

What makes the program unique is that students do not pay for the credit until they pass the exam. Students pay an initial $45 per course fee, but only decide if they want to pay the full course credit fee (a fee of no more than $200 per credit hour to get college credit for the course) after passing the course’s final exam. By allowing students to complete courses before applying or paying for credit, the Global Freshman Academy aims to reimagine the freshman year and reduce academic and monetary stress while opening a new path to a college degree for many students.

According to ASU and edX, the program differs from other digital immersion undergraduate programs in the following ways:

  • Course Credit for Open Online Courses – By completing the full series of eight Global Freshman Academy courses, students earn full college credit for freshman year; students will also be able to opt for taking individual courses for credit if they prefer.
  • Cost Effective – Freshman year credit earned through Global Freshman Academy is a fraction of the cost students typically pay.
  • Learning Before Payment – Students may decide to take a course for credit at the beginning or after coursework has been completed – reducing financial risk while opening a pathway for exploration and preparation for qualified students who may not otherwise seek a degree.
  • Unlimited Reach – Because of the open course format, learning takes place while scaling completely – there are no limits to how many learners can take the courses online.
  • Innovative Admissions Option – The Global Freshman Academy’s approach is different from the traditional admissions process of other credit-bearing courses, eliminating such barriers to entry as standardized tests and transcripts that are part of the traditional application process.

(For more information on the program, click here, read this article, or go to edX’s GFApage here.)

Making courses credit-worthy

According to Agarwal, there are two ‘musts’ when making an online course credit-worthy: I.D. verification and virtual proctoring. “You have to verify and who and the what; the identity and the activity,” he explained.

edX already partnered with Software Secure  (which works with over 350 global institutions, including Clemson University, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education, Vanderbilt University and many others) for student I.D. verification, in which a webcam captures a student’s face and I.D. photo and information, allowing a Software Secure member to verify student identity. Now, edX has enabled the company’s virtual proctoring solution, RPNow.

Agarwal emphasized that RPNow is an innovative remote proctoring system in that the technology allows asynchronous operation, allowing for flexibility and scalability. It can also allow the webcam to capture any activity deemed inappropriate by instructors during test taking.

“The solution works by activating the webcam to not only monitor the student, but make sure the student is alone in the room. The video streams to the cloud and then a Software Secure team member reviews the video within two to five days. This really impressed us. When we started edX three and half years ago, it wasn’t clear how offer verify student activity effectively and efficiently. But this Software Secure solution truly allows all students to take exams online anytime,” he explained.

According to Doug Winneg, CEO and founder at Software Secure in an interview with eCampus News, RPNow is a cloud-based system that offers self-service, on-demand testing for students with each exam session reviewed in its entirety by two certified proctors.

“When a student is ready to take a test, our RPNow system guides them through the authentication process of collecting verifiable identifying information, reminds the student of the policies associated with their particular exam, and then records the entire exam session. Through the use of technology tools and highly trained proctors, we then review each exam record and enforce the exam policy. At the end of an exam, the institution is delivered a digital report that includes direct links to the video and audio of any potential cheating incident,” he explained.

RPNow can also be configured to communicate directly with the student about certain behavior that is against the exam rules, but not cheating, like having other people walk through the room, or having a phone on the desk, even though its turned off,” noted Winneg. This allows the system to encourage the student to modify his/her behavior and ensure they have a completely clean exam record the next time.

“Because students know that each record is fully reviewed, we have found our system offers the highest deterrence,” said Winneg.

Beyond exam verification

Outside of student I.D verification and virtual proctoring, Agarwal said that there are quite a few innovations that ASU, edX, and Software Secure are working on to make the GFA a success; for example, building student enrollment systems that allow student to enroll before deciding to go for credit; building systems for diverse student payment options; and building a credit transfer system from the GFA to ASU.

“The first course will start in August of this year, so our teams are all working together at super high speed!” exclaimed Agarwal.

He concluded, saying that edX has already received interest from numerous institutions on offering a similar program, or at the very least online courses for-credit, for their own campuses. “If the results from the GFA are good, we would certainly like to expand the program; and virtual proctoring is one step to making that happen.”

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