In addition to the Extension School policies outlined in Exams, Grades, and Policies (including FERPA), the following policies and procedures apply to distance education students:

  • You are responsible for ensuring that you have the necessary computer hardware and software, including any course-specific software needed to complete course assignments. Check the course website to determine if any special software is needed. Harvard University does not provide equipment or software. You must have Internet access available throughout the term.
  • Distance courses are not self-paced. You are expected to watch the video lectures on a weekly basis and be an active participant in the course throughout the term.
  • You must adhere to deadlines and due dates provided in the course syllabus and may not join distance courses after the end of registration.
  • Recorded lectures for the distance education courses are available only to registered students; lectures are password protected after the first week of class.
  • Many distance courses have in-class hour, midterm, and final exams. If your primary residence throughout the term is in the six-state New England area (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), you are expected to take your exams on campus as scheduled. Call Academic Services, (617) 495-0977, if you have any questions about this policy. If you do not live in New England, you may take exams on campus or arrange to take them with a proctor at a location near your home.
  • If you are approved for an extension of time or make-up final exam, you will have access to the recorded lectures until you submit your work to the instructor, take the make-up final exam, or the deadlines pass—whichever occurs first.


Many distance education courses have exams, which may be take-home, online, in-class, or proctored exams.

Online exams

An online exam is a timed exam that is taken on a specific date and within a specific time period. You take the exam online. You do not need to come to campus to take the exam. You access the online exam through the course website. Only students registered for undergraduate and graduate credit may take exams. Online exams are open-book exams.

A practice exam will be available on the course website shortly before the online exam. The exam content of the practice exam is not related to the course. Its purpose is to ensure you have the proper technical requirements to take an exam online. You must take the practice exam using the same computer on which you plan to take the online exam to identify and avoid any technical and connectivity issues that might arise.

Proctored exams

If you are enrolled in distance courses that have a time and proctored on-campus exam and you live outside of the New England area (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Vermont), you may come to campus to take your exams. Or you must make arrangements to take your exams in absentia in a proctored setting in your home area according to the following procedures.

Finding a qualified proctor

You are responsible for finding a qualified proctor to administer each exam. The proctor must be a teacher, professor, or administrator in a nearby secondary school, college, university, or testing center. Proctors cannot be family members, friends, or co-workers.

For assistance finding a proctor, contact a guidance counselor, an academic advisor, or the dean of students or registrar’s office at a nearby college, university, or high school . You may also use a testing service such as Sylvan and the Consortium of College Testing Centers to proctor your exams. Testing services charge fees for their proctoring services. The Consortium of College Testing Centers has testing centers across the country and abroad that provide proctoring services to distance students near their homes. Centers are located in 45 states Canada, and England. Any fees incurred are your responsibility.

Submit your proctor information through online services no later than a week before the campus exam. Before doing so, confirm that your proctor has a business e-mail address, reliable access to the Internet, the ability to download mp3 files (some exams have audio components) and to download and print PDFs, and access to a fax machine or scanner (for returning completed exams to the Extension School). Exam materials are not sent to proctors who do not have a business e-mail address.

Submitting the proctored exam form

  • Complete and submit a proctored exam form online for each exam (even if you use the same proctor) no later than one week before the on-campus exam date.
  • Before submitting the form, find a qualified proctor (see above) with whom you have arranged the date, time, and location for their off-campus exam. If you do not submit a proctored exam form or your form is late, you may forfeit the opportunity to take your exam and will be subject to the instructor’s make-up policies for mid-term exams and Extension School make-up policies for final exams.
  • E-mail confirmations will be sent to you and your proctor upon receipt of the proctored exam form. If confirmation is not received within 24 hours, send an e-mail to or call (617) 495-0977 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm eastern time.

Proctored exam approval and procedures

When the proctored exam request has been approved, a second e-mail that will be sent to you and your proctor that includes details about exam policies and procedures. Exam materials are available to proctors via a password-protected, secure website for a specific length of time. Proctors must download the exam materials within the specified timeframe and administer the exams to the students.

You must complete exams within the specific period of time and no later than the on-campus exam date. Proctors must return all exam materials by fax or e-mail (scanned materials) immediately following completion of the exam. Detailed instructions—including the secure web address, fax number, and return e-mail address—are included in the e-mail sent to proctors shortly before the date of the exam.

If you or your proctor do not follow the exam procedures, you may forfeit the exam.


For more information, e-mail anytime, or call (617) 495-0977 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, Eastern standard time.