Verification of Student Identity in Distance Education

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University Policy Number 3004


Responsible Office:

Policy Procedure:

Related Law & Policy:


This policy applies to all credit-bearing distance learning courses and programs offered by George Mason University, beginning with the application for admission and continuing through to a student’s graduation, transfer, or withdrawal from study.


The purpose of this policy is to ensure that George Mason University operates in compliance with the provisions of the United States Federal Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), Public Law 110-315 concerning the verification of student identity in distance learning.

All credit-bearing courses and programs offered through distance learning methods must verify that the student who registers for a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives academic credit.  One or more of the following methods must be used:

a)  A secure login and pass code;

b)  Proctored examinations; and/or

c) New or emerging technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student

All methods of verifying student identity in distance learning must protect the privacy of student information.  If any fees associated with the verification of student identity will be charged to students, they must be notified of these charges in writing at the time of registration or enrollment.

Personally identifiable information collected by the university may be used, at the discretion of the institution, as the basis for identity verification.  For instance, a student requesting that their learning system password be reset may be asked to provide two or more pieces of information for comparison with data on file, or to come to the ITU Support Center in person with a photo ID or verification.


Substantive change” is defined in accordance with relevant SACS-COC policies.  In general, the term refers to the kinds of actions outlined in Section I.  Questions about whether a given academic action constitutes substantive change should be directed to the Office of the Provost for clarification.


All users of the university’s learning management systems are responsible for maintaining the security of usernames, passwords and any other access credentials assigned.  Access credentials may not be shared or given to anyone other than the user to whom they were assigned to for any reason.  Users are responsible for any and all uses of their account.  Users are responsible for changing passwords periodically to maintain security. Users are held responsible for knowledge of the information contained within the most recent University Catalog (and the School of Law Catalog) as well as the Student Handbook.  Failure to read university guidelines, requirements and regulations will not exempt users from responsibility.

Students are responsible for providing complete and true information about themselves in any identity verification process, in accordance with the Student Honor System and Code.

Faculty teaching courses through distance education methods hold primary responsibility for ensuring that their individual courses comply with the provisions of this policy.  Faculty are responsible for informing the Office of the Provost of any new technologies being used to verify student identity, so that published information on student privacy can be maintained appropriately, and so that that the university can coordinate resources and services efficiently. Because technology and personal accountability may not verify identity absolutely or ensure academic integrity completely, faculty are encouraged, when feasible and pedagogically sound, to design courses that employ assignments and evaluations unique to the course and that support academic integrity.

Deans and directors of college-level units are responsible for ensuring that faculty are aware of this policy and comply with its provisions. Deans and directors are also responsible for ensuring that academic awards and degree programs within their units comply with the provisions of this policy.

The Office of the Provost is responsible for ensuring university-wide compliance with the provisions of this policy and that deans and directors are informed of any changes in a timely fashion. The Office of the Provost is responsible for publishing university-wide information on how identity verification processes protect student privacy. The Office of the Provost is also responsible for coordinating and promoting efficient use of university resources and services, and for ensuring that university level processes (e.g., admissions or registration) also remain in compliance with this policy.




In accordance with the responsibilities outlined above, deans and directors of college-level units are expected to ensure that all faculty within their units remain in compliance with this policy.  If necessary, the Provost may address non-compliance through performance reviews or other measures as appropriate.


August 15, 2010


This policy will be reviewed annually by the Office of the Provost for continued alignment with the appropriate federal regulations and policies and revised as necessary.


Maurice W. Scherrens
Senior Vice President

Peter N. Stearns

Date approved: August 25, 2010