EdX To Offer Proctored Final Exam For One Course

EdX, Harvard and MIT’s joint non-profit virtual learning initiative, will offer a proctored final exam for one of its courses this fall, President of edX and MIT Professor Anant Agarwal announced Thursday morning.

Harvard and MIT have committed $30 million each to the online platform, which was announced in early May of this year and will allow students worldwide to take one of seven classes taught in an actual classroom at either Harvard, MIT, or the University of California in Berkeley.

Until now, edX planned to have its students agree to an honor code before taking exams. Students would receive a Certificate of Mastery upon passing the course. Now, for a currently undisclosed fee, students can choose to visit a test center to complete their final exams and, upon passing, receive a certificate indicating completion of the course with a proctored test, according to an edX press release.

“This will take online learning to a next level,” Agarwal said on a conference call with reporters.

Agarwal explained that proctored testing is an improvement on the current model of online education because it allows students to show that they have mastered the material by proving that the work they have done is their own.

He added that proctored testing will make edX certificates much more valuable because he anticipates that employers and educational institution will be more comfortable with certificates received based on proctored testing results rather than a promise to adhere to an honor code.

He said, however, that the move to proctored testing was not a response to any specific concerns of cheating or plagiarism.

“The students were doing a really good job of monitoring themselves,” Agarwal said.

He said that while edX courses match their in-class counterparts, it will be up to universities to decide if and when they will grant credit for edX classes. Agarwal said that to start, only one of the seven edX courses will offer proctored testing.

“The whole movement itself is a big experiment,” Agarwal said. “The reason we are starting with one is to see how it goes.”

EdX has not yet announced which course will offer a proctored test but Agarwal said this decision will be made public soon.

For the proctored exams, edX is partnering with computer-based testing company Pearson VUE, according to the press release. The company operates test centers that edX students in more than 110 countries will be able to visit to take their exams.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Pearson VUE Robert Whelan told reporters that while his company creates testing programs for some online education ventures, edX professors will create their own system. However if the program gets larger, Whelan said, the Pearson VUE could potentially assist in making the tests themselves.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu.

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