By Burck Smith, Founder and CEO, StraighterLine
Dear StraighterLine Student:
Recently we announced that StraighterLine will begin requiring proctored final exams. Originally this policy was to apply to any college credit earned after November 1, 2012. However, after talking with many of our students, we have changed the policy such that it will apply to any course purchased on or after November 1, 2012.
We understand that online proctoring is an additional expense and an inconvenience for some of you. As founder and CEO of StraighterLine, I am writing to explain the reason behind the new policy and to clarify some of the misconceptions that have been created.
Despite our best efforts, some students cheat. This is prevalent across higher education and is particularly prevalent in online courses. Cheating methods include plagiarism, having others take exams, copying and sharing or selling test items, taking exams in groups, searching for test answers during exams and more.
As you are aware, until now, StraighterLine has offered optional proctoring. Those students who wished to transfer credits to colleges requiring proctoring could purchase a proctoring session. This would be noted on the student’s transcript. Those who were transferring to a college that did not require proctoring, did not need to make that same purchase. Unfortunately, the overall result has been that some students still cheat, boast about it, and post about it on the Internet. I think you will agree that such cheating diminishes the credibility and acceptance of the StraighterLine credits for everyone.
Some of you have noted that many colleges don’t care whether an exam is proctored. Frankly, you’re right – some colleges have ignored many of the safeguards necessary to insure academic credibility. In fact, the only identification requirement for accredited colleges is for the student to have a username and password – clearly, a requirement with limited effectiveness. Undoubtedly, the growth of alternative and more affordable ways to earn college credit will spur more colleges to tighten up their policies and procedures.
It’s important to note that this policy change has nothing to do with profit generation for StraighterLine. We have and will institute a number of changes to demonstrate this. Starting on November 1st, the per-course price will rise from $39 to $49 and all courses will include a proctoring session (currently $30 a la carte). The price will not rise for those students purchasing $399 or $999 packages.
I would also like to address a few other concerns that we’ve heard . . .
- First, this policy does not affect the self-paced nature of StraighterLine’s courses. Our subscription pricing model was created to reward students capable of completing rapidly and to diminish the financial risk to students who must pause or stop. Required proctoring will provide even greater confidence in test results when students move quickly.
- Second, ProctorU, the company that provides our online proctoring, is used by hundreds of colleges to perform this service. While an online proctoring session does require providing access to your computer to a third party, this is a common practice among colleges, including many of our largest transfer partners. Already, many of StraighterLine partners require online proctoring to appear on StraighterLine’s transcript, and hundreds of sessions have been scheduled and provided without incident.
- Third, we will be working to provide a seamless place-based proctoring option as well. In the meantime, if a student can provide evidence of trusted local proctoring, we will accept that as fulfilling the requirement.
- Fourth, proctoring is only required for final exams; and,
- Fifth, proctoring will only apply to courses purchased on or after November 1, 2012.
While we regret the concern this new mandatory proctoring policy may have caused some of our students, I hope you can see that it is driven by our goal to ensure academic credibility. After careful consideration, we are convinced that required proctoring is in the best interests of the majority of StraighterLine students. I hope you agree and thank you for your understanding.
Burck Smith is Founder and CEO of StraighterLine