Verification of Student Identity in Distance Education


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, and the requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) 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:

  1. A secure login and pass code;
  2. Proctored examinations; and/or
  3. New or emerging technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student

Fully online asynchronous classes using the University’s LMS must also use the available new or emerging technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identification as outlined in the policy procedure above.

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, students must be notified of these charges in writing at the time of registration or enrollment.

Users must not attempt to disguise their identity, the identity of their account or the machine that they are using, when using university IT resources. Use of technology to conceal one’s identity, such as masking an IP address or using VPN technology for anonymity, is forbidden.

Personally-identifiable information collected by the university may be used, at the discretion of the institution and in compliance with applicable state and federal laws, 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 may be subject further identity verification through Information Technology Services (ITS) procedures.


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

Students must provide complete and true information about themselves in any identity verification process, in accordance with the Student Honor Code and System.

Faculty teaching courses through distance education methods must ensure that their individual courses comply with the provisions of this policy.  Faculty must inform 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.

Deans and directors of college-level units shall ensure that faculty comply with this policy and its provisions. Deans and directors shall ensure that academic awards and degree programs within their units comply with the provisions of this policy.

The Office of the Provost shall ensure university-wide compliance with the provisions of this policy and shall ensure that deans and directors are informed of any changes in a timely fashion. The Office of the Provost shall publish university-wide information on how identity verification processes protect student privacy. The Office of the Provost shall coordinate and promote efficient use of university resources and services and shall ensure 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 shall 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.

Date last approved: August 25, 2010



Carol D. Kissal
Senior Vice President

Mark R. Ginsberg
Provost and Executive Vice President