Student Handbook

Table of contents:


Introduction

Welcome to StraighterLine!

You have made a smart decision. Over many years, the process of earning a degree has become increasingly expensive. While a few institutions have sought to improve the options available to students, StraighterLine represents the first service of its kind to solve the challenges of cost and flexibility without limiting students to a ground-based location. The true value of our solutions will become increasingly apquick parent as you begin to recognize the extraordinary level of support from both our online educators and our dedicated team of Student Advisors. As a StraighterLine student, you are our valued partner; we promise to be there when you need us, and we will listen to your recommendations and improve our program based on your advice.

Real courses for real credit require real work.

Make no mistake; the courses you take through StraighterLine represent a rigorous, but exciting, learning experience. You will be challenged to perform to the best of your ability so you can begin your degree program with the skills and abilities needed to perform at advanced levels.

Tips for success in a StraighterLine course:

Outline your goals and a timeline for completing the course. By taking a course through StraighterLine, you have the freedom to complete courses on your own timeline. But be sure this freedom doesn’t cause you to forget about the coursework. Before you start your StraighterLine course, download a copy of the suggested course timeline, enter your start date in the black cell, and use this document to help keep yourself on schedule. 

Work with the Student Advisor to keep yourself on track. The Student Advisor is the difference between a StraighterLine online course and all the imitators. When you sign up for a StraighterLine course, you are assigned a Student Advisor who is responsible for tracking your progress and ensuring you are sticking to your goals. Work with the Student Advisor, and you will find success in reaching your goals.

Use the tutoring hours included with the course. When you press the Tutoring button, you are directly connected to a real, live subject-matter expert. All online tutors are experts in their fields, and have undergone rigorous testing (SMARTHINKING tutors are also E-structor® certified). 

Have a place to be free of all distractions. Everybody has distractions, but constant disturbances can threaten your progress. Find a quiet place that allows you to focus on your coursework. If you are too distracted at home, try using Internet access at the library or work from a nearby cyber café or coffee shop.

The Basics

How Does a StraighterLine Course Work?

Unlike many online courses, StraighterLine courses are self-directed, meaning that you are responsible only for yourself. You will progress as quickly or as slowly as you see fit.  Depending on your billing method, you’ll either be charged every 28 days for continued access (until you cancel) or will have six (6) months from the date of your purchase to complete the course. If you think you need more time—just speak to your Student Advisor about purchasing an extension. Freshman Year students have 12 months to complete their 10 courses.  

Lessons and Assessments Each StraighterLine course follows a syllabus. On “The Course” page, you will see a number of topics that constitute your StraighterLine course. Though the components of the topics vary, each topic may include a reading assignment, a lesson presentation, review activities, homework assignments, and other methods to help you learn the essential concepts. The topics represent the fundamental concepts that you will need to master in order to successfully complete the course. 

Graded assessments are your key to successfully completing the course. Each assessment can only be taken one time and all graded assessments have a time limit.  Additionally, you may be asked to complete a brief Identity Verification process which requires you to place a toll free phone call, enter your Student ID Number, enter the Exam Serial Number, and then recite and record a brief message.  Once you've completed the process the system will automatically provide you the appropriate exam password.

Once you finish and submit the assessment, submitted answers cannot be changed. You will receive a final score for the course after all of the assessments have been completed. If you choose to take the course for credit at a partner college, this final score will be forwarded to the partner college, who will award credit based on their academic criteria. 

Are there due dates? StraighterLine does not set due dates for assignments or assessments. Once you are ready to submit an assignment or complete an assessment, you may do so—take as much time as you need, or move as quickly as you would wish. Please be wary of your school’s deadlines and academic calendar; StraighterLine is not responsible for expediting transcripts or access to course retakes. (So do your research on timelines and connect with your Student Advisor to discuss any potential constraints or deadlines.)

Do I have to complete all of the test and assignments? Yes, you must complete all graded assignments and tests in order to request and be provided a transcript.  While you need only 70% to pass a course, we require that students attempt every graded test and assignment.  Failure to do so will prevent StraighterLine from releasing your transcript.

Can I retake a course?  Students may retake a for-credit course as many times as they choose. Final grades for retakes will be averaged with the student’s previous scores in the course*. $99/month students will need to pay the course start fee once more and simply continue with their monthly plan.

Please note that StraighterLine courses are regularly updated and improved. In some cases, this means that a new course version uses a different textbook. In the case that you are retaking a course and a new version has been released since you originally enrolled, you can decide to move to the new course version or remain in your originally purchased course. All new students are automatically enrolled in the most current course version.

*For students who are retaking a course that they did not originally complete the following rule is applied:

  • If a student has not attempted 1/3 of the total possible points, their retake grade will not be averaged.
  • If a student has attempted more than 1/3 of the total possible points, their subsequent attempt will be averaged with a 59% or their original course grade (whichever is higher).

Developmental courses may be taken as many times as needed without averaging final scores.  If a student has already passed a course but is interested in retaking it to raise their score, the grade used for a transcript will be the average of both passing grades or their original score (whichever is higher).  

Failure Policy For failed courses (below 70%), if students earned a 59 or higher their grade is averaged with their subsequent attempt.  To pass students must achieve higher than 70% when all attempts are averaged. If a student earns lower than a 59% on their attempt of the course we will use the 59% as the score for that failed attempt (Students still must achieve higher than 70% when averaging all attempts to pass.)

Where to go for help You will quickly discover that your options for support are greater than you have experienced at any other school. Academic, Admissions, and Technical Support teams are available up to 24 hours per day/ 7 days per week. For hours and contact information, visit the Quick Reference Guide: Student Support Services at the end of this handbook.

What is Tutoring? We provide on demand academic support through tutoring service providers. For students at StraighterLine, these services provide online, on-demand academic support for all academic disciplines. Since StraighterLine students have special accounts within each service, you have access to tutors whenever you need support for specific topics and assignments. Through your courses, you can connect to one of 700 different online educators at your convenience instead of trying to schedule time with a single professor.

Tutoring Hours Each StraighterLine membership comes with 10 hours of instruction available for the duration of the membership. Additional hours may be purchased directly from each Tutoring company.

To purchase additional SMARTHINKING hours, follow these steps:

  1. Start at “My Home Page.”
  2. Click “My Account.”
  3. Click “Purchase more time from SMARTHINKING.” 
  4. Select the package you wish to purchase.
  5. Input your credit card and billing information.
  6. Click “Purchase.”

The time you use and the hours that remain in your account are tracked automatically. To see the current status of your account, click on "My Account" tab on your homepage. We will track how many hours you have used and how many remain--and you'll be able to see this information as well. Time is deducted from the student's SMARTHINKING account according to the following:

Service UsedCharge to Student Account
Real-time Interaction with tutor Metered to the minute plus 5 minutes for processing and archiving
Submission to Online Writing Lab 35 minutes
Pre-scheduled Sessions with tutor 30 minute increments (plus 5 minutes for processing and archiving starting)
Submission of Asynchronous Questions 20 minutes

Tutoring should not be used while completing graded exams. Tutoring is designed to help you with studying, practice exercises, review activities, and other non-graded components of the course.

Proctoring is available to all students via StraighterLine proctoring services, which we partner with ProctorU to deliver. StraighterLine requires proctoring on final exams for all courses purchased on or after November 1, 2012. Several composition courses, such as English Composition I, don't have a final exam, so there's no need for proctoring. To ensure academic integrity, written work for such courses is subject to review via plagiarism detection software and other protocols. For more information please refer to the StraighterLine Proctoring page

Tuition, Fees and Refund Policies

Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition, Textbooks, and Material Costs All StraighterLine courses require payment in advance. Additional materials may be required to complete the course, there are no hidden "student activity," "service," or other material fees that drive up the cost of your education.  All required or suggested materials are listed on your course’s syllabus or on course description pages.  

StraighterLine recommends the purchase of the text associated with each course.  Without the text you may miss out on substantial practice, review and reading materials. Although textbooks prices vary by course, used copies, rentals and eBooks can substantially reduce the cost of course materials and therefore help to keep student costs as low as possible. StraighterLine currently offers a textbook search engine which provides you a comparison of over 30 vendors to purchase your used, new, rental, or ebook textbook. Click here to utilize the textbook search and comparison resource .

Partner College Fees Certain partner colleges require the payment of an application fee prior to awarding credit for a StraighterLine course. Please check with your Student Advisor to confirm whether your selected partner college will require an application fee. StraighterLine does not determine or exercise authority over partner college admissions fees.

Financial Aid StraighterLine does not directly participate in federally funded financial aid programs; therefore, StraighterLine tuition may not be paid for with funds dispersed through financial aid programs. Partner colleges do offer financial assistance to students once officially enrolled.

Employee Tuition Reimbursement StraighterLine is happy to partner with companies and employees interested in establishing tuition reimbursement relationships. Please refer to our Corporate Partnerships page for more information.

Refund Policies

Please use the link below to access StraighterLine's complete refund policy:

View StraighterLine’s refund policy.

Refund of Partner College Fees Requests and processes must be handled directly with the college itself.

Accessibility

General

StraighterLine shall not engage in nor allow discrimination covered by law. This includes harassment based on race, color, national origin, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and disability. Veteran status in educational programs, activities, employment practices, or admission procedures is also included to the extent covered by law.

StraighterLine does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the admission or access to, or treatment or employment in, its programs or activities.

Online Course Environment

Where possible, StraighterLine courses work to provide the following in order to best accommodate students with disabilities.  

Learning Management System and Course Content

  • Our learning management system (LMS) provider, Blackboard (owner of Moodlerooms), was awarded a Nonvisual Accessibility Gold Certification by the National Federation of the Blind.  In addition to our general course policies, Blackboard and Moodlerooms both offer more indepth accessibility information online; more information is available at http://access.blackboard.com or http://www.moodlerooms.com/accessibility.
  • Our publisher provided content is also compliant and generally offers the ability to manage text size, toggle audio narration on/off, and provide text transcripts.  Where applicable, videos provide transcripts of audio as well.  Content provider Accessibility statements:

Usability

  • In all course design, StraighterLine limits course fonts and uses high contrast text/background pairs.  
  • Use of all CAPS, italics, or bold text is limited.
  • Generally, we do not use “click here” hyperlinks within courses (though some links will be obfuscated by resource links created via Blackboard).
  • When used, graphics have alternative text (alt tags) for ADA Section 508 compliance.
  • We provide audio versions of resources and text transcripts of audio where possible.  All course lesson presentations from McGraw Hill, NROC, and Thinkwell include text and audio.

Documentation

If you have a disability that affects your ability to take an online course please contact your Student Advisor in order to provide StraighterLine with adequate documentation.  Students must submit documentation of their disability prior to completing any course assessments, once received StraighterLine will work with students on an individual basis.  To begin the documentation process, please contact your Student Advisor (Advisor@straighterline.com).  

Award of Credit and Transferability

Awards of Credit

Transcripts for completed StraighterLine courses can be sent to any college, however the college has full control over what courses are accepted.  Please be sure to verify that your credits will transfer prior to starting your course.  Credits are guaranteed transfer to partner colleges; be sure to check which courses are transferrable to each StraighterLine partner college.  Additionally transcripts can be sent via the ACE transcript service.

A student wanting to take a course for credit at a partner college will work with a Student Advisor to determine which partner college is best for his/her individual needs and academic goals. Upon successful completion of coursework, a Student Advisor will work with the student to officially gain admission to the partner college, submit a StraighterLine transcript, and ensure the credits are awarded as applicable. For more information about transferring credits please visit StraighterLine's Credit Transfer page.

Grades

StraighterLine scores assessments based upon a percentage of 100%. Your StraighterLine transcript will reflect the percentage score and corresponding grade as set forth below:

ScoreGrade
93-100 A*
90-92 A-
87-89 B+
83-86 B
80-82 B-
77-79 C+
73-76 C
70-72 C-
67-69 D+
63-66 D
60-62 D-
Below 60 F

Certain partner colleges will post the StraighterLine grade on your transcript when you enroll there. Others will reflect a P/F only. You should review our partner college page for specific policies related to those institutions. If you plan to request credit from another institution via ACE, you should check with that institution regarding grade posting policies.

*The highest letter grade in a StraighterLine course is an A.

Transferability of Credit

StraighterLine does not award academic credit itself. All credits awarded are transferable according to the awarding partner college’s articulation agreements with other institutions. Students wishing to confirm transferability of course credit should contact the institution that will receive the transferred credit; they should confirm that the chosen institution will accept credit from the StraighterLine partner college for the course(s) they intend to complete. StraighterLine, along with colleges and universities, cannot guarantee the transferability of credit between regionally accredited institutions.

American Council on Education (ACE)

The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT) has reviewed all of StraighterLine's courses. Thousands of colleges award credit for ACE approved courses. To be sure that your future or current institution will award credit for our courses, check the website or call the college in which you wish to enroll and ask if they accept ACE recommended coursework. To use the ACE process:

  1. Be sure the college in which you want to enroll will accept ACE recommended courses. If not, consider one of Straighterline's partner colleges.
  2. Successfully complete a Straighterline course.
  3. Sign up for the ACE Transcript Service found here. There will be a $40 fee to sign up which includes the submission of one transcript. (https://www.acenet.edu/transcripts/)
  4. Have the transcript sent to the college in which you want to enroll.

For more information about our credits, please visit www.StraighterLine.com and click the “Earn College Credit” link. 

CLEP, AP, and other standardized tests for credit

Many individuals have successfully earned college credit by taking a standardized test, which is accepted for credit at many regionally accredited universities. These tests usually require additional fees and are usually administered at a testing center. Although StraighterLine does not offer these tests, courses taken through StraighterLine will prepare students seeking a test-for-credit option. As with transferability, StraighterLine cannot guarantee individual scores or credit acceptance. For more information about these tests, please visit:

Academic Honesty Policy

Please refer to the full Academic Honesty Policy .

Glossary

  • Accreditation – See Regional Accreditation
  • ACE – The ACE National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training contains ACE credit recommendations for formal courses or examinations offered by various organizations, from businesses and unions to the government and military. The American Council on Education has reviewed all of StraighterLine's courses and has listed them on their site (www.acenet.edu/nationalguide) within the National Guide. ACE review and acceptance means that our courses are accepted at any college or university that has accepted the ACE CREDIT recommendations on their site. 
  • Student Advisor - The primary administrative point of contact serving StraighterLine students; Student Advisors assist in the transfer of student records to partner colleges, and ensure that all student questions and concerns are addressed while enrolled in StraighterLine.
  • National Accreditation – Many national accrediting bodies exist for various types of specialized educational institutions including trade schools, arts and humanities schools, healthcare schools, law schools, and more. National accreditations are not as widely recognized among universities as regional accreditations.
  • Partner College – A regionally accredited college or university which has reviewed and confirmed the rigor of StraighterLine courses as equal to those it delivers itself. The partner college further agrees to award academic credit for successfully completed StraighterLine courses.
  • Regional Accreditation – The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Regional accreditation is the highest level of quality an educational institution can achieve. There are six regional accrediting bodies, each serving one of six defined geographic areas of the country and each being responsible for accrediting the schools, colleges, and universities in their regions.

Quick Reference Guide: Student Support

Academic Support

StraighterLine provides up to 10 hours of one-on-one academic support. At this time these services do not provide live voice services but manage live interactions through an innovative learning platform called the WhiteBoard. Click here to see scheduling availability with SMARTHINKING Tutors. 

Technical/System Requirements

Internet: A high speed Internet connection (DSL or Cable Modem) is recommended. 
PC: Intel Pentium (1.8 GHz) or AMD Athlon 64, 512MB Memory (2GB Recommended), Windows XP/Vista. 
Mac: PowerMac G4 (1.25 GHz), 512MB memory (2GB recommended), OS 10.3 or later. 
Software Requirements: Supported web browser (Internet Explorer 7 or later or Firefox 2 or later), Microsoft Word Reader, Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer, Microsoft Excel Viewer, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Shockwave Player, QuickTime, Adobe Reader, VitalSource Bookshelf eBook Reader. Pop-ups and cookies must be enabled. 

Tech Support

There are specific support paths for the various systems employed by StraighterLine.

SMARTHINKING Support
Telephone: 202-543-5034 opt. 1 or 1-888-430-7429 opt. 1
Email: support@smarthinking.com
Hours: M-F 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM EST

eScienceLabs Support
Telephone: 888-ESL-KITS
Email: help@esciencelabs.com

Admissions/Administrative Support
Telephone: 1-877-Str8erline )
Email: advisor@straighterline.com
Hours: M-F 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM EST
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