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Student identity verification: How educational institutions can improve their IDV

In an increasingly digitized education space, student identity verification is becoming essential. Learn how it works.

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⚡ Key takeaways
  • The goal of student identity verification is to ensure that the person who registers for a class, course, certificate, or degree — and who will receive the credential or credit associated with it — is the same person who actually completes the material.
  • Student IDV is important because it helps build trust in the online education industry. Institutions and platforms want to know that they are not being defrauded by the learners using their platform, and employers want to know that an applicant’s educational credentials are not fraudulent.

When it comes to identity verification, financial institutions like banks, lenders, insurers, etc. get most of the attention. This makes sense, as they are required to perform IDV as a part of anti-money laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) laws and regulations.

But they’re far from the only businesses that can benefit from implementing identity verification processes. Businesses operating in many different industries can use identity verification to build trust in their platforms and provide a better, more secure experience for their customers — the education industry is a perfect example of such an industry.

Thanks to the rise of e-learning and remote learning during the past few years, it’s become increasingly important for online colleges and e-learning platforms to have robust and effective verification processes in place for their learners.

Below, we define student identity verification, explore the different moments in the education process where it tends to be leveraged, and discuss the different forms that it can take.

What is student identity verification?

Student identity verification is a term that refers to the process of verifying a learner’s identity at various moments of their education. 

The goal is to ensure that the person who registers for a class, course, certificate, or degree — and who will receive the credential or credit associated with it — is the same person who actually completes the material.

How does student identity verification work?

The student identity verification process varies depending on whether the student is learning at an in-person educational institution, such as an on-campus college or university, or through an online or remote platform. We take a look at both below.

In-person student identity verification

Students attending in-person colleges and universities have long been required to periodically verify their identities. Typically, this would be done through analog methods, such as the use of ID cards. 

For example, students often need to scan or show these cards to faculty members in order to access on-campus resources — such as classroom buildings, libraries, laboratories, etc. — as well as when completing important examinations. 

Online student identity verification

In recent years, more and more students have chosen to complete their education online, by enrolling in remote or hybrid programs offered by universities and online platforms. 

This has led to an increase in convenience and options for learners, who are no longer limited by geography and proximity to physical institutions. This shift has also brought new concerns about the potential for educational fraud. 

Automated identity verification has become an important tool for combatting this potential for fraud. With this in mind, most online education platforms verify student identities during the account creation process, and then re-verify them at key moments during the learner’s education — such as when they are signing in to complete an examination. 

Of course, identity verification can take many different forms, and it’s up to the institution to decide how they will verify their students’ identities. Some of the most commonly used methods include:

  • Government ID verification: Government ID verification involves requiring a learner to capture and submit a photo of their government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport. It is often paired with other forms of verification, like selfie verification. New technologies, such as mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) and e-passports, are also increasingly being leveraged in order to reduce the potential for fraud.
  • Selfie verification: Selfie verification requires a learner to take and upload one or a series of selfies. This selfie is then compared against either previously uploaded photos or the photo from the learner’s photo ID.

It’s also important to note that some online education platforms might cater to multiple audiences. On Coursera, for example, some students might complete a course simply because it interests them, while others use the platform to complete a degree or official certification. In cases like this, it would make sense to offer a more relaxed student IDV flow for students in the first camp, and a stricter flow for students in the second camp. 

Why is student identity verification important?

Student identity verification is important because it helps build trust in the online education industry. Without verification, it would be virtually impossible to confirm that any given student actually completed the course material and earned a credential. While this might not matter in the case of casual, free courses, it is incredibly important in instances where learners are completing degrees, certificates, or continuing education online. 

Institutions and platforms want to know that they are not being defrauded by the learners using their platform, as this could hurt their brand. And employers want to know that an applicant’s educational credentials are not fraudulent, as this could cause them to hire someone who is not qualified for a job. This is especially true in industries where hiring an underqualified employee has a high risk of leaving a negative impact on customers, such as medicine, law, and finance. 

How does student IDV differ from other forms of identity verification?

Student identity verification leverages many of the same verification techniques that are leveraged in other industries. The key difference is the use case.

It’s also worth noting that while some industries are required to complete IDV by law, such as the financial industry, this is not currently a requirement in the education space. Still, it can be extremely valuable in reducing fraud and building brand trust.

What are the benefits of student identity verification?

The primary benefit of student identity verification is the fact that it helps online education platforms build trust in their brand. This increased trust can translate into increased adoption, especially from employers and educational partners, increased signups, and, ultimately, increased profits. 

Student IDV and Persona

Here at Persona, we know how important it is to get identity verification right, regardless of the industry your business operates within. That’s why we’ve designed our Verifications solution to be hyper-customizable.

Verify your learners the way that makes sense to your business, without compromising on conversions. Leverage Dynamic Flow to fine-tune your verification process and introduce different levels of friction depending on the risk present with each individual user and use case. 

Reverify users simply and easily via selfie verification to provide a pleasant user experience without sacrificing trust and security. 

And because e-learning means that education is no longer limited by geography, we’ve worked hard to make our solutions available in more than 200 countries and territories (and in over 20 different languages) so you can easily grow your business and your platform with learners and educators around the world. 

Want to see why organizations like Coursera and Udemy trust Persona for student identity verification? Start for free or get a demo today.

Frequently asked questions

How do companies verify student status?

During the hiring process, most employers verify student status or education history by requesting records (such as transcripts) from the school listed on the applicant’s application. They can do this internally or by hiring a third-party company.

What information is required for the student verification process?

In most cases, student identity verification requires the collection of the student’s:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number or TIN
  • Contact information (such as phone number and email address)
  • Government-issued photo ID

In cases where the student is working toward completing a master’s level education, the learner may also need to provide educational records from their undergraduate career. 

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