edX to Offer Proctored Final Exam Option

Online learning

September 7, 2012

EdX, which offers free online courses, announced it will begin offering proctored exams, which would grant students a certificate noting that they completed and passed the exam. This certificate can then be used for job applications.

"This option enhances the value of our courses in the real world, helps us maintain our goal of making high-quality education both accessible and practical and thus is a natural evolution of edX's core philosophy of transforming lives through education," Anant Agarwal, president of edX, said in a press release.

Through the new partnership with Pearson VUE, an electronic testing company with 450 testing centers worldwide, students can take a final course exam at a test center and subsequently receive a certificate indicating the test was proctored and secure, making it "significantly more valuable," Agarwal told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"From our discussions with employers and institutions, they certainly feel much more comfortable with proctored certificates, because these really reflect the students' own work," he said.

Currently, edX students do not receive credit from its partner universities -- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley. However, the existence of proctored, in-person exams could convince degree-granting schools to give credit to students who pass them, Inside Higher Ed noted.

"This will take online learning to a next level," Agarwal said to Inside Higher Ed.

In fact, Wednesday, Colorado State University's accredited online component, Global Campus, announced it would grant three transfer credits to students who passed Udacity's introductory computer science exam that Pearson proctored in August. Udacity is a for-profit venture started by Sebastian Thrun. About 20 students either took or signed up for that exam (which cost $89), according to Inside Higher Ed.

Both the in-person testing and proof of a student's course participation make a "compelling case" for students to receive college credit for their efforts, argued David Stavens, chief operating officer at Udacity.

However, the news of the edX-Pearson VUE collaboration comes amid controversy over the academic integrity of MOOCs, particularly in light of plagiarism claims last month among students taking free Coursera courses, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This year, edX will host seven courses, only one of which will have the proctored test option; edX hasn't indicated yet which one. While courses are free, the proctored exam does have a fee, which also remains unknown.

The first course offered through edX -- electrical engineering -- took place last year, Inside Higher Ed reported. At the completion, instructors awarded "certificates of mastery" to the 7,157 students who did the work and passed the online final exam.

EdX's class on circuits and electronics began Wednesday, noted Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Chemistry, computer programming and public health courses will start later this month and in October.

Compiled by Doresa Banning


"edX Announces Option Of Proctored Exam Testing Through Collaboration With Pearson VUE," prnewswire.com, September 6, 2012

"edX Offers Proctored Exams for Open Online Course," chronicle.com, September 6, 2012, Marc Parry

"Harvard-MIT Online School EdX to Offer Supervised Final Exams," businessweek.com, September 6, 2012, Oliver Staley

"MOOCing On Site," insidehighered.com, September 7, 2012, Steve Kolowich

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