An institution that offers distance or correspondence education documents each of the following: (Distance and correspondence education)

4.8.1 demonstrates that the student who registers in a distance or correspondence education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the credit by verifying the identity of a student who participates in class or coursework by using, at the option of the institution, methods such as (a) a secure login and pass code, (b) proctored examinations, or (c) new or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student information.

Compliance Judgment

X      In compliance     Partially compliant     Non-compliant


Many of Francis Marion University’s internal applications require unique username and passwords for each student. Several policies state that it is the responsibility of the instructor to ensure the correct student is doing his/her work. Courses that are taught online have special measures to ensure the appropriate student is completing his/her work.

Francis Marion has layered systems in place to verify a student who registers for an online course is the same person who completes the work and requirements of the course and receives a grade. Francis Marion does not offer correspondence courses.

The layered security architecture of the University infrastructure includes a browser interface into the legacy ERP system called Swampfox Web, the student email system provisioned by Google, the Learning Management System by Blackboard, and dedicated student data network login (wired and wireless). Each of these systems implements network security, including, but not limited to, student identity. Each system also provides a mechanism for students to change their password.

As stated in the Student Handbook 2016-2017, it is the responsibility of the faculty to “take all possible precautions to ensure that the credit (for an academic course) has not been attained by fraud. The instructor should rigorously enforce honesty concerning all academic work submitted by his/her students for evaluation” [1] (please see below for a discussion on methods faculty use to fulfill this responsibility). This policy is also published in other university works, for example, the Catalog 2016-2017 [2]. The Honor Code in the Student Handbook 2016-2017 states that all “academic work, written or otherwise submitted by a student to his/her instructor or other academic supervisor is expected to be the result of his/her own thought, research, or self-expression” [3]. Additionally, as explained in the Student Handbook 2016-2017, no student can “use another person’s system, user ID, password, files, or data without permission” [4].

Campus Technology defines student responsibilities and obligations with “respect for intellectual property, ownership of data, system security mechanisms, and individuals’ rights to privacy and to freedom from intimidation and harassment.” Specifically, students must “(p)rotect (their) user id and system from unauthorized use…” and “(a)ccess only information that is (their) own.” Additionally, students are explicitly not allowed to:

• Use another person’s system, user id, password, files, or data without permission.

• Use computer programs to decode passwords or access control information.

• Attempt to circumvent or subvert system or network security measures [5].

Failure to comply with these requirements falls under the Student Conduct Code found in the Student Handbook 2016-2017 [6].

In addition to instructions on acceptable technology resource use, Campus Technology publishes a website with Francis Marion University’s distance education policy [7].

Francis Marion’s Learning Management System, Blackboard, is accessible only by registered students, faculty and staff by using unique logon credentials consisting of a provided username and a user created password [8]. For students, access to course materials is limited to only those courses in which they are registered per the Registrar’s Office and only for the current semester. Blackboard maintains tracking features, detailed history of all graded items and activity logs system wide.

The School of Education, the School of Business, and the School of Heath Sciences offer programs online. Below are examples of how individual programs provide additional techniques to verify the identity of students in their online or hybrid programs:

As shown in the Spring 2017 Course Schedule, all Registered Nurse-to-Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-to-BSN) courses [9] and the majority of graduate-level nursing courses are taught online [10]. Additionally, the majority of the courses for the Healthcare Administration major are taught online as seen in the course schedule [11]. All of the university nursing and healthcare administration faculty who teach in these programs are online teaching certified and have attended School of Health Sciences professional development sessions about online academic integrity. To ensure academic integrity pertaining to online learners, the School of Health Sciences faculty at Francis Marion has several procedures in place to ensure the identity of the online learner:

  1. All Nursing students need to complete an admission package that includes a drug screen and a criminal background check. In order to obtain the drug screen and criminal background check the students must submit a photo identification and their social security number. The background check and drug screen are retained by the School of Health Sciences. For nurses, their SC RN license is retained by the School of Health Sciences. This information is provided to all Nursing students in their BSN Orientation packet [12].
  2. The coordinator of the RN-to-BSN track advises all the students in the track and speaks directly to them on the phone initially and intermittently throughout the program to arrange their clinical learning experiences [13].
  3. The teaching strategies of the nursing faculty do not rely on exams that are susceptible to identity fraud. Assessment depends upon the ongoing development of written projects during a semester. Nursing faculty provide assignments that can be assessed in an ongoing fashion throughout the semester in order to identify any discrepancies in writing style or quality that would alert them to a breach of academic integrity. These details can be found in syllabi for nursing classes [14].
  4. Many of the School of Health Sciences courses require a clinical or practicum experience. These experiences provide inherent identity safeguards for the students.
  5. Students in all nursing courses must access a statewide system called “Care Learning Passport” and complete competency-based modules in order to be admitted into the healthcare provider organization. The Passport system requires identifying data [15].
  6. The Family Nurse Practitioner program requires that students secure a preceptor in many of their classes. The preceptor submits an evaluation of the student at the end of the semester. The healthcare organization in which the student is being evaluated also requires identification from the student in the form of a nursing license [16].

As shown in the Spring 2017 Course Schedule, the School of Education offers online courses in its master’s programs [17]. The School of Education faculty who use these formats have completed training in instructional technology. There are two ways in which the faculty ensure academic integrity:

  1. The Francis Marion instructor identifies one or more individuals at the school where the graduate students teach who are willing to serve as proctors. The student takes the exam in a securely sealed envelope to the proctor. When the student finishes the exam, it is enclosed in a new securely sealed envelope, and the student returns it to the professor.
  2. The student sets up a situation in which they video themselves from the time they open the envelope which has been mailed to them until they have resealed the envelope. The student sends the video and the exam to the professor as noted in course syllabi [18].

The School of Business offers hybrid courses in its Masters of Business Administration. To ensure academic integrity, the faculty requires exams to be taken on the Francis Marion University campus and proctored by the faculty member administering the course [19].

The Schools of Health Sciences, Education, Business, and the College of Liberal Arts all take advantage of the same security features of Blackboard as discussed previously. Although the College of Liberal Arts does not offer online degree programs, the few faculty members who teach online courses have access to Respondus, as do all faculty members on campus. The Respondus LockDown Browser, which Francis Marion University has recently licensed and installed on all Public and Departmental lab computers, is a specialized version of a web browser that limits the user to only being able to connect to Blackboard and connect to a test [20]. The LockDown Browser user cannot print, access other applications, or any other activity normally available while the test is active. The University also licenses the Respondus Monitor service in which a student’s test may optionally be video recorded via an inexpensive web camera.


  1. Student Handbook 2016-2017, Academic Conduct, p. 59
  2. Catalog 2016-2017, Academic Conduct, p. 47
  3. Student Handbook 2016-2017, Academic Conduct, p. 59-60
  4. Student Handbook 2016-2017, Instructional Resources, p. 41
  5. FMU Website, Acceptable Use Policy
  6. Student Handbook 2016-2017, Student Conduct, p. 60-63
  7. FMU Website, Distance Education Policy
  8. FMU Website, Blackboard Help
  9. RN-BSN Courses Online Courses Spring 2017 Course Schedule
  10. Nursing Graduate Online Courses Spring 2017 Course Schedule
  11. Interprofessional Healthcare Admin Online Courses Spring 2017 Course Schedule
  12. BSN Orientation Packet 2017
  13. Advising Letter from Rhonda Brogdon
  14. NRN 445 Syllabus
  15. Care Learning Passport Information
  16. Clinical Evaluation Tool 2016-2017
  17. Education Graduate Online Courses Spring 2017 Course Schedule,
  18. EDUC 745 Syllabus
  19. MBA 700 Syllabus
  20. Respondus