The course was an online course and the grade comprised of weekly attendance, quizzes, coding projects, and two proctored exams. The proctored exams accounted for 48% of the grade. Thus, 52% of the grade could have been completed by somebody else or with tremendous help from the internet. In other words, if I were a dishonest student, I could make perfect scores on all of the non-proctored assignments, and then I would only have to earn an average of 38% on the proctored exams to pass the class. In the majority of online math classes in our department, the percent of non-proctored scores is 20% (or less), so a student must average at least 63% on proctored exams to receive a passing grade. My guess (based on the pass rates in other departments compared to the pass rates in the math department) is that most other disciplines have nearly the same scenario.
Are our students learning as much in online courses as they would have in live courses? Based purely on anecdotal evidence, I would say no. I personally learned a lot from taking the class, but it wasn’t because of the class, per se. It was because of my pride. In the online environment, I taught myself how to code in C++ (with the help of the Internet and two sessions with a tutor), but the thought of not earning an A is what made me work hard to do so. In a class like programing, there is probably more intrinsic motivation than for the majority of students who take math courses (Most only take two math courses so they can get a degree), so there may be more “honest” use of the non-proctored assessment. In our math classes, however, we see a lot of students who do perfectly well in the online quizzes that are not proctored, but when they complete a proctored exam (with the same questions…), they don’t do well. They claim they are not good test takers. The bottom line is that they can’t demonstrate mastery in a proctored setting. So, should we join the movement and allow more students to pass our courses by weighting the non-proctored assessment higher, or should we continue to be the gatekeepers?