In this Issue: (pdf copy)

Richard Ernst– Professor Profile

– Ron Saunders

– Online Learning at CU

 Live Online Proctoring

– Proctoring Distance Students

Tech Corner

– SASC Advising for CUOL Students

Richard Ernst

Richard Ernst – Professor Profile

Connecting via Skype, CUOL instructor Dr. Richard Ernst peppers our conversation with stories from his travels, from getting dropped off by helicopter Russia out of radio contact, to snaking through land mines with a military escort in a former war zone.

With a list of credentials almost as prolific as his fieldwork around the globe, Ernst has been an adjunct professor at Carleton since 2004 and scientist-in-residence since 2011. His focus is on Large Igneous Provinces, or LIPs, an acute vein of volcanism that occurs every 20-30 million years, resulting in the breakup of continents, climate shifts and major deposits (he is also currently completing a comprehensive book on the subject for Cambridge University Press). He currently teaches Exploring Planet Earth, instilling the same excitement about the subject in his students that turned his childhood hobby into a career.

Growing up, he recalls hunting for fossils with his family when new roads were cut, and sifting dirt to look for rubies and sapphires. Born in Philadelphia and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Ernst came to Canada because of the geological field research opportunities.

“I really got the bug to do something remote,” says Ernst. Passionate about passing on those same opportunities to his students, he plans to organize a field trip to Russia in the coming years to give students a chance to do work on rock suites there—Ernst speaks Russian, and was proud to be dubbed a fellow “Siberian” on his latest expedition.

Though he’s relatively new to online learning and says he was initially worried about how to reach his CUOL students the same way he does in class, he’s since settled into his role as an online instructor. To keep his online students engaged, he punctuates every lecture with his version of a stretch break, a halfway-point “seismic wave”—similar to The Wave that travels around the Canadian Tire Centre on game night, but each of his representing a different kind of wave that travels through the Earth’s layers following earthquakes or eruptions (he asks his students for suggestions). He catalyses The Wave through his students’ webcams and back to the classroom.

“I’m pretty amazed by these new tools,” he says. “I love Carleton and working with the students in this [online] role.”

He’s just begun to tap into Carleton’s interactive resources, like chatting, conducting office hours and two-way sharing with his students. “I’m still at the baby stage, but it’s very enjoyable,” he says with a laugh. “It’s magical.”

Ron Saunders

Professor Profile – Ron Saunders

Professor Ron Saunders has been teaching in Carleton’s Law and Legal Studies department for 30 years, but don’t mistake his longevity for outdated teaching methods. Saunders is a wholehearted supporter of online learning and has introduced online proctoring into his course, Criminal Justice Systems, so that his distance students can take their exams from home. With more than 10 years of teaching through a lens under his belt and rave reviews from his students online, we asked Saunders to share his tips for teaching in-class and online students simultaneously.

“At the beginning, I realized I had to be a lot more organized—it’s much easier to wing it in front of a regular class,” he says. “Just be natural. Treat it as if the camera weren’t there. Chances are if it’s good in class, it’ll be good on camera.”

But that’s not to say ignore the students watching from home. Saunders likes to acknowledge that his online viewers are present to draw them into the lecture—it can be hard for those outside of the classroom walls to feel like they’re a part of the class. And because in-class students can also watch the lectures free of charge, it’s a win-win for those students who miss a day or are studying for an exam.

“It can only augment what they’re learning,” says Saunders. “Certainly from the feedback I’ve gotten, they seem to enjoy it.”

Saunders has also ventured into online proctoring—a tool that has allowed him to get exams back from distance students instantaneously instead of having to wait for them to be mailed in from around the world. “It makes a huge difference,” he adds.

Immediate exams mean much faster results for students, no matter where they took the test—which is especially advantageous for the popular Criminal Justice Systems. The course provides a contextual look at law, and is an elective for the law and legal studies department—an interdisciplinary program that Saunders finds compelling because of its uniqueness in the country. His current research has dug into police accountability, an area of criminal justice he finds fascinating because of its topical nature. And in the meantime, he’s looking forward to a sabbatical term from January through June.

“I actually think I’ll miss online teaching while I’m away,” he says with a laugh. “I’d really like to stay in it, It’s just a nice way to reach a lot more people.”

Online Learning at Carleton U and Abroad   

What’s the difference between an online course and an online education?

To us at CUOL, it’s about putting as much attention into what goes on outside of a classroom as what is contained within its walls. Having points of contact that help ease processes like enrollment, distance exams, online proctoring and transferring credits. Molding an education flexible enough to fit a mother of two with a full-time job, returning to Carleton to finish a degree seven years in the making (like Jackie Kingsbury, interviewed in this issue), or an avid athlete with a busy work schedule studying in Berlin, Germany (like Alyssa Malette, also featured in this issue). And above all, ensuring our online learners take away just as much from their courses as do their in-class counterparts. Carleton’s online journey started with the Wired City Project, a joint effort with the prestigious Stanford University to connect students in Ottawa with those in Silicon Valley via satellite in the mid-1970s.

We’ve since gone from delivering videotapes to distance students, to the academic world’s inaugural video podcast (we were the first in the world to offer video-on-demand of a university credit course in 2006), to downloadable recorded lectures for iPods and mp3 players, to introducing the CUOL you know today in 2011.

But Carleton isn’t the only school making enriched online learning a priority. We are one of Ontario’s 22 universities working in conjunction with Contact North to make online learning available in every corner of the province, no matter how remote. We’re also one of 11 accredited institutions in the Canadian Virtual University (CVU) association, a group of universities committed to quality online and distance programs. One of the core principles of the CVU is facilitating the transfer of credits between universities and collaborating with other members of the association to enrich the learning experience for our distance students. Members of the CVU include:

  1. Athabasca University
  2. Laurentian University
  3. Royal Roads University
  4. Mount Royal University
  5. Memorial University of Newfoundland
  6. Royal Military College of Canada
  7. TÉLUQ, l’université à distance de l’UQÀM
  8. Thomson Rivers University
  9. University of Manitoba
  10. 10.  University of New Brunswick

So, how does a standard online education differ from an online education at Carleton and its CVU partners?

Although we now offer purely web-based courses, CUOL’s core offerings are actual lectures captured in-class and streamed to our online students. Because most traditional online courses lack that face-to-face intimacy, our lectures offer an experience more analogous with an in-class lecture. It’s an especially crucial difference now that Carleton has gone international—not just with our exchange program, but with our 250 distance students tuning in online each term.

We’ve committed to partnerships like CVU and Contact North to further improve our online learning and expand our network of like-minded universities. Now, as we continue to explore the potential of MOOCs and delve into the possibilities of online proctoring, we’re continuing to connect more students, more countries and more courses—all at the push of a button.

This fall, using cuLearn, CUOL facilitated live online proctoring in Berlin, Germany; Milan, Italy; Hamilton and Kingston ON; and in the Yukon Territory.

Live Online Proctoring (LOP): To LOP or Not to LOP

The advent of online learning in higher education is a key part of the 21st century learning experience. It is a period of change for many academic institutions, since access to education is now more competitive, open and global. The rise of MOOCs and the appeal of online courses offered [by the ranking academic institutions] to the global community are evident all over the realm of academia. In particular, the trend in which online learning seems to be heading impels the growth of various academic technology tools designed to assist in the learning and administration of the ‘global’ students.

Not surprisingly, a considerable proportion of students nowadays are more inclined toward taking online courses because of the expediency and the convenience that they offer. Many of them see this as effective solutions to meeting the demands of their personal, family and work commitments. This is where the need arises to integrate suitable technology that supports online learning and mitigates the ever-growing demands for online courses. Consequently, many institutions are trying to catch up to be in the forefront on this paradigm shift.

In my line of work, we deal with online students, and while there are good percentages that are on campus, many of them are distance learners. Proctoring their exams, particularly those that reside abroad or in remote areas of the country, has been challenging. Hence, maintaining the integrity of exams becomes even more essential and a primary concern for all three constituents: the university, the instructors and the administrators.

This term, we are piloting LOP. Live Online Proctoring started in 2008, and since then almost 500 institutions in the U.S. and worldwide have implemented it. The feedback that I have received provided positive reviews and testimonials of the service.

We’ll be following suit with five different courses piloting this innovative proctoring service. International students will be proctored by a company based in Toronto and Atlanta.

Remote-proctoring services rely on the same technology that has made it possible for people to earn college degrees without having to report to a campus.

How it works

Using his or her own computer and webcam, the student can take exams at home, at work, or anywhere they have internet access. LOP allows exam takers to complete their exam anywhere while still ensuring the integrity of the exam for the institution.

  • The student will connect with a live proctor from one of the online proctoring centres in Toronto via web cam. The proctor will help the student through the exam processes—they are there to help if technical difficulties arise.
  • The student then will connect his or her computer screen to the proctor. This allows the proctor to see the student’s screen and enables the proctor to assist with the setup before the start of the exam.
  • The proctor will ask the student to show two photo IDs, preferably one Carleton ID. The proctor will then take a photo of student. Further authentication is necessary and the proctor will ask the student to answer a few questions. These questions are generated from the information we provide.

When the online exam begins, the proctor (ratio 1:4) watches the students throughout the entire duration of the exam and records any movements, sounds, keystrokes, etc. The proctor also has control of the student’s computer and can stop the exam if he or she notices any irregularities. An example from a Chronicle of Higher Education article on the subject mentioned tracking irregular eye movement— “one student  attached a sticky note below the webcam, but a proctor caught him glancing up at the note and made him hold a mirror up to the screen. Busted.”

If there are questions about the exam, the professor can review the video. We’re thrilled to be incorporating Live Online Proctoring into our CUOL curriculum this fall.

For more information on the service or if you have any questions, please email me at

proc proc1
Jackie Kingsbury (Kingston, On. -left) and Alyssa Malette (Berlin, Germany, -right) are being proctored online for their midterm and final examinations.

Proctoring Distance Students

From the moment the word “begin” is uttered, to the dreaded “pencils down,” exam stress can weigh heavily on even the most prepared students. Throw an unfamiliar element into the mix, like an online proctor to facilitate the process, and it can be even more nerve-wracking than usual.

“Going into the exam with the online proctor, I won’t lie—I was very nervous,” says Alyssa Malette, a distance student studying in Berlin, Germany. “But the overall process was amazing. It was like the online proctor wasn’t even there, and was totally relaxed and comfortable. My proctor was super friendly, so that made the process a lot smoother.”

With online proctoring being integrated into more and more CUOL courses, distance students who aren’t in close proximity to a test centre can take the exam from the comfort of their own home, with a proctor keeping a watchful eye for any aberrant behaviour or if help is needed through webcams and microphones. While online proctoring has been debated for its “invasive” nature and more intense forms of supervision than in-person monitoring, Carleton’s distance students have found the process to be more relaxed than they’d anticipated.

“You wouldn’t even tell he was there,” says Malette, and avid athlete with a busy work schedule who is currently taking two courses through CUOL. “If you encounter any problems he would pop up to assist. I feel like it’s less stressful because you’re not worried about people getting up and leaving- you’re on your own and don’t have the pressure to write fast just because all your friends are.”

For psychology major Jackie Kingsbury, plugging in and minimizing those distractions is key. She started her degree as a part-time student when she lived in Ottawa, but hadn’t taken any courses for seven years. Now settled in Kingston, her best option to finish her degree was to continue as a distance student at Carleton than to start fresh at Queen’s University, and taking courses online allows her to manage her time around a full-time job and two young children.

“The online proctor process was neat,” says Kingsbury, who was a bit concerned prior to the exam because of her unfamiliarity with webcams. “[The proctor] Kim ‘took over’ my computer while I sat in my kitchen and I was able to see her moving the mouse and checking to make sure that I had all the technological requirements for the exam. I was able to see Kim and chat with her via webcam—I’m old and have never done this before—which was nice because I was able to put a face to the person who was supervising my exam.”

For Kingsbury, the only stress was related to her environment—she had disconnected her phones and other media devices, but was a little worried about not being able to control if someone came to the door. (A note to students taking an online-proctored exam for the first time: take a page from Kingsbury’s book and choose the right place To take the exam, make a checklist before the exam of devices to switch off, and put a note on the door if you’re worried about visitors. According to proctoring service Kryterion, in 16 per cent of cases, a student will leave his or her seat, answer the phone, or a similar breach.)

But while most students asked agree online proctoring is critical for distance exam-taking, they have a few suggestions for future online a pencil and scrap paper that took some getting used to.

“With multiple choice questions, part of my process is to mark questions that I want to revisit,” says Kingsbury. “Sometimes the answer will come to you in five minutes. [My] exam had 125 questions and finding the question you want to revisit when you recall the answer was not always easy.”

But, Kingsbury adds the overall process was easy and more seamless than expected. Overall, is a proctor is necessary?

“Absolutely,” she says. “It protects the student from any potential accusations. I’m happy to have someone ensure that I am being honest with my test-taking.”

Tech Corner

Quizlet ( allows you to build your own flash cards and is free, fast and very simple to use.

Once you have made your Flash cards, you can add images and audio, and you can build tests and games. Try Space Race, where you earn points by typing in words before their definitions vanish off the screen. Share study sets with friends- a little friendly “Space Race” competition probably won’t do any harm.

You can also choose from a database of cards others have made (search for Carleton University and see card sets specific to some Carleton courses), but “buyer beware”; you’d have to be pretty confident of the accuracy of those cards.

Quizlet is a fun study tool for when you’re on the go, and when you need to memorize facts or terms. You can use the web site or the mobile app for Android and iOS. However, for studying more complex concepts, it’s probably not what you need.

For more on preparing for exams and developing study skills, check out Carleton’s Learning Support Services page:

SASC Advising for CUOL Students

Are you registered in a CUOL or Evening course and need to see an Advisor? Do you have questions about changing your major, adding a minor or dropping a course but aren’t on campus during the day?

The Student Academic Success Centre is happy to announce extended advising hours during the 2013 fall term for students registered in CUOL or Evening courses only. This option is available in an effort to accommodate those students who are not on campus during our regular office hours and cannot use our drop-in advising service. We will be scheduling appointments on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 5:00 p.m., but space is limited, so please contact us via email to schedule y eds are best met.

The Student Academic Success Centre is located in 302 Tory Building, down the hall from the Registrar’s Office. Please send your appointment request to from your cmail account. Be sure to include your full name, student ID and detailed information about your inquiry.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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