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etudes -vivie rec on authentication

Page history last edited by abogado 15 years, 5 months ago

Dear Colleagues:

I am sure you have seen Barbara Beno's letter with regard to the Higher

Education Act which requires institutions to authenticate the identity of

Distance Education (DE) students. 


By the time of the 2010 comprehensive evaluations, the Commission will

require your institution to demonstrate that it has practices that meet the

requirements. I am pasting Barbara's letter below this message.

How can we authenticate the identity of DE students in their online classes

or when they submit work? No technology offers good answers to this



There are several vendors who offer camera systems that fingerprint and show

students in their homes as they take exams. Of course the cost of these

types of systems is high (can your students afford them?), and the identity

verification questionable. The camera could be pointing to one individual

while a friend or family member maybe taking the exam. Likewise, one

individual could scan his fingerprints but another take the exam.


There are also vendors who provide services that tap into national databases

of U.S. consumer public records, and use this to verify an individual's

identity. These services can be integrated with CMS systems, which then can

be set up to require students to answer questions to verify their identity,

which may include name, address and date of birth - prior to gaining access

to a site or exam. This is something that Etudes can explore, if it is of

interest to our members. These identity verification services come with

high, on-going costs and setup / integration costs, which may be prohibitive

for colleges in our economic climate. My chief architect and I discussed

that perhaps we can build a more cost-effective "User Profile" database for

DE students taking online courses in Etudes.


But, does answering questions from a user database prove one's identity? If

a husband, sister, or friend is taking a course or an exam for someone else

(either as a favor or for money), they would share personal information

freely with their 'buddy,' such as b-day, place of birth, mother's maiden

name, name of first pet, etc.


So where does this leave us? Proctoring centers for high-stakes exams? Not



We have been doing some hard thinking about how Etudes can respond to this

issue and help colleges. We have some ideas which will believe will further

strengthen whatever local procedures and practices you are putting in place.

Pending community feedback, we would like to implement a tool in Etudes that

will require a user to verify his identity before getting into EACH of his

online classes - EVERY term. Specifically, the FIRST time a registered

student clicks on a course Tab (new term) in Etudes, before gaining access

to the course site, she would be introduced with an "Identity Verification

Agreement" screen that she must "Accept" (sign) that she is student X and

agree to the consequences of her actions if lying about her identity. This

pledge will not stop a user from lying, but if caught, the college can use

the data to prosecute the student because she *violated* the agreement. This

function could be extended further to require students to sign an "Identity

Verification Agreement" every time they submit a test, quiz, or assignment

in Etudes, if set by the instructor. Or, it could be required for every

exam, as per this law.


We would like to hear your thoughts on the design and implementation of the

above. Is this something that you believe will further strengthen your local

policies? We would implement this tool with our current developer resources

- at no extra cost to colleges. It means postponing other prioritized work.

I very much look forward to hearing from you with your thoughts. 


If you could also share with me the local practices you are establishing to

meet the higher education ED requirements, I would gladly compile them into

a document and share them with the Etudes community. We can all learn from

each other!


Thank you and have a great weekend.




Vivie Sinou

Executive Director, Etudes, Inc.


--------- Begin Forward ---------------------------

September 24, 2008

Memo to:        Chancellors, Superintendents, Presidents, and Accreditation

Liaison Officers, Chief Instructional Officers 

From:             Barbara Beno, President

Subject:          New Distance Education Requirements of the Higher

Education Act of 2008 Require Immediate Implementation

The Higher Education Act has been signed into law.  It contains several

changes to accreditation requirements, and accreditors are required to

implement these changes immediately.  Many of the Commission's current

policies and practices are already in alignment with the new law. 

One area of concern involves changes to the requirements about distance

education.  This change requires institutions to authenticate the identity

of distance education students submitting work toward course and program

completion, as described below.


The legislation requires accrediting agencies that accredit institutions

offering distance education


* * *

"to have processes through which the institution establishes that the

student who registers in a distance education course or program is the same

student who participates in and completes the program  and receives the

academic credit"

* * *


The US Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking sessions planned for

2009 may help further clarify what the Department of Education will require

of accreditors.  However, a meeting with Department representatives in

Washington on September 11, 2008 confirmed that accreditors are required to

implement the new requirement even before negotiated rules are developed and

published.  Such negotiated rules would normally define what is meant by the



Frankly, the higher education community does not have much experience yet in

providing quality assurance for such student authentification. The regional

accreditors will be working together to develop, where possible, a common

approach to their own strategies and means for enforcing this requirement

during evaluations of institutions.  Those strategies and means will likely

include an accreditor policy statement or guidelines for institutions.

One source of information on best practice will be the Western Cooperative

for Educational Telecommunications (WCET), a division of the Western

Interstate Cooperative for Higher Education.  I will be attending the WCET

annual conference this November and will share with member institutions any

resources or information that I gain from that meeting.  There may also be

vendors who have suggestions for how an institution can meet this new

requirement.  The Commission will also be asking member institutions what

strategies they currently use to authenticate the identity of distance

education students.


The Commission hopes to have useful guidelines to institutions by next



This memo serves to notify your institution that by the time of the 2010

comprehensive evaluations, if not before, the Commission will require your

institution to demonstrate that it has practices that meet the requirements

of the law.   The Commission urges your institution to begin work to develop

the capacity to authenticate the identity of distance education students. 

All of the changes to the accreditation portion of the law can be found on

the President's Desk of the Commission's web page at



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