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4.8 Distance and Correspondence Education

Federal Requirement:

4.8.1 An institution that offers distance or correspondence education demonstrates that the student who registers in a distance or correspondence education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the credit by verifying the identity of a student who participates in class or coursework by using, at the option of the institution, methods such as (a) a secure login and passcode, (b) proctored examinations, or (c) new or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identification. (Distance and correspondence education)

Statement of Compliance:   In Compliance.


Distance Education students at the University of West Georgia include those who take online courses through the university as well as those who enroll in eCore, the WebMBA program, and the European Union Studies Program.  UWG distance students enrolled at the University or any of the mentioned collaborative programs follow guidelines and procedures set forth by the University of West Georgia. Compliance with the Federal Requirement 4.8 is informed by the SACS policy on "Distance and Correspondence Education" [1]. The institution no longer offers correspondence courses.  

In accordance with the Institutional, Board of Regents, SACS, and State and Federal policies, a substantial set of procedures is applied to ensuring the identity of students participating in distance education.  The University of West Georgia authenticates that the student who registers in a distance learning course is the same student who participates in, completes, and receives the credit for the course by verifying the identity of the student using the following methods:

  1. Unique usernames and secure passwords in the central campus student information system (Banner) are required for students to access all secure online and network campus resources. These online campus resources include, but are not limited to, access to campus learning management systems (LMS) through which students access their online coursework. Banner passwords must be changed every 120 days and must adhere to certain requirements (they must be at least eight characters long and contain at least one alphabetic character, one special character ($%^() !<>[]). Regardless of the program, all distance courses are housed on secure servers either locally or remotely. The students also directly login to CourseDen (for UWG), GeorgiaView Vista ( for eCore), and Moodle (Computer Science) with a unique username and password. All account credentials are protected in accordance with institutional IT security guidelines and using the industry-standard SSL encryption protocol. These procedures and more are included in the University of West Georgia Information Technology Security Plan, specifically, in the Acceptable Use Policy section ([2] p.41).  Information Technology Services and Distance and Distributed Education are responsible for ensuring the provisions of this standard are enforced.
  2. Requiring identity documentation in order for students to obtain a university Student ID Card.  Board of Regents Policy 4.3.4 [3] led the University of West Georgia to establish its own Verification of Lawful Presence policy [4]. The Auxiliary Services department is responsible for ensuring the provisions of this standard are enforced.
  3. Many of UWG online courses and programs require that students travel to an approved testing site for proctored exams. These are explained in the Online Student Guide [5].  In general, the proctor ensures the security and integrity of the exam process and requires the student to present an official form of ID (State-issued Driver’s License, Passport, or Student ID, and a Driver’s License if there is no photo).  In some cases, the proctored exams are administered on-site at a proctoring location where the students access the exams online via the LMS, requiring the testing center to have computers with an internet connection and requiring the student to log into the course with his or her username and password at the time of the proctored examination.   Per the Student Exam Request Form, the testing official at the approved institution is sent an encrypted email containing the proctored exam password, exam instructions, and student verification notice five business days before the start of the proctored exam window. The proctor uses the password to unlock the midterm and or final only after the student has successfully logged into the LMS. 

In online eCore courses students cannot pass the course, regardless of their coursework grade average, without taking at least one proctored exam where identity is verified [6], [7].

The responsibility for ensuring the provisions of this standard are enforced falls to the following units:         

4.  UWG online faculty development support staff encourages instructors to use best practices in online assessment and provide  guidelines for promoting academic integrity [8], [9]. New technologies like the Roster tools in the Learning Management Systems allow instructors to require students to upload a photograph and a brief biography to further help authenticate student identity.

Additionally, recent updates to the University information system Banner allow uploading students’ photos and aligning them with the names and student ID numbers, so that the instructors could verify their students’ identities [10]. Instructors may also require attendance in virtual classroom settings with real-time video and via Skype video.

Supporting Documentation: