What is an undergraduate degree and why is it important? The example of UNACH

In the field of higher education, an undergraduate degree is an academic program pursued before obtaining a university degree. It...
14 July 2023

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What is an undergraduate degree and why is it important? The example of UNACH

In the field of higher education, an undergraduate degree is an academic program pursued before obtaining a university degree.

It is the initial stage of higher education and provides a solid foundation of knowledge in a specific field.

In this article, we will explore in detail what an undergraduate degree is, its importance, the different types of programs available, and how proctoring can be adapted to such programs through the example of UNACH (Universidad Adventista de Chile).

What is an undergraduate degree?

An undergraduate degree is an academic program students pursue after completing secondary education.

It is also known as a bachelor’s degree and focuses on areas such as sciences, humanities, engineering, arts, and social sciences.

During an undergraduate program, students acquire theoretical and practical knowledge in their field of study.

Consequently, an undergraduate degree is the academic title awarded upon successful completion of an undergraduate program.

Depending on the country, it may have different designations, such as “bachelor’s” or “baccalaureate.” The undergraduate degree demonstrates mastery of the fundamentals in a specific area and is a common requirement for accessing graduate programs.

What is an undergraduate degree and why is it important? The example of UNACH

The importance of pursuing an undergraduate degree

Obtaining an undergraduate degree is essential for personal and professional development. Some reasons why an undergraduate degree is important include:

  • Acquisition of specialized knowledge: An undergraduate degree allows students to delve into a field of study and develop specific skills related to their desired career.
  • Broadening perspectives: Undergraduate programs foster critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills, helping students develop a broader mindset and a better understanding of the world around them.
  • Improving job opportunities: An undergraduate degree is a basic requirement for many professions and job positions. Companies and organizations value higher education and often seek candidates with university degrees.
  • Development of transferable skills: During an undergraduate program, students acquire transferable skills such as effective communication, teamwork, and research capabilities, which are applicable in various professional areas.

Types of undergraduate programs

Students can choose different types of undergraduate programs based on their interests and career goals. Some of the most common programs include:

  • Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.): Program focused on scientific disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.): Program centered on areas of study such as literature, history, foreign languages, social sciences, and fine arts.
  • Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng. or B.E.): Program that focuses on engineering disciplines such as civil, electrical, mechanical, or computer engineering.
  • Bachelor of Social Sciences (B.Soc.Sc.): Program encompassing fields such as sociology, anthropology, political science, and psychology.

These are just examples, as the variety of available undergraduate programs is extensive, allowing students to choose the area that best suits their interests and career objectives.

Nowadays, many of these programs can be pursued online and evaluated remotely through tools like proctoring.

A good example of this is the Adventist University of Chile (UNACH), which offers this possibility to its students.

Next, we will share its story.

Online undergraduate programs at UNACH: distance learning and proctoring

Universidad Adventista de Chile (UNACH) is a higher education institution that is part of the global network of educational institutions supported by the Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día (IASD).

Founded in 1990, UNACH has a long educational tradition dating back to 1906 when a senior college was established in Púa, to provide academic training to ministers, teachers, and administrators of the church in Chile. In 1922, the institution moved to Chillán, where it consolidated its profile as a higher education institution.

Over the years, UNACH has entered into agreements with various universities, obtaining full autonomy in 2002. Currently, it has five faculties and offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, diploma, and course programs in various areas.

Furthermore, this university has undergone institutional accreditation processes carried out by the National Accreditation Commission for Undergraduate Programs (CNAP), obtaining accreditation in the years 2009, 2011, 2015, 2018, and 2022.

With its wide range of academic offerings and commitment to educational quality, UNACH stands out as a prominent higher education institution in Chile.

Online undergraduate programs at UNACH: distance learning and proctoring

The need for distance undergraduate education

In 2022, UNACH had a total enrollment of 2,544 undergraduate students and 82 postgraduate students. 49% of its faculty members work full-time or part-time, which often requires students to balance their studies with work.

That is why this university has chosen, in many cases, to offer distance education programs that allow for this balance. They have done so through online education platforms (or LMS) such as Moodle and proctoring tools like SMOWL.

Implementation of proctoring at UNACH

Implementing proctoring at UNACH has been a gradual and carefully planned process. Challenges have been faced, and measures have been taken to ensure confidentiality and transparency in using this assessment tool.

Use of proctoring in different academic programs

Currently, UNACH primarily uses proctoring in undergraduate programs, where each thematic unit usually includes at least one online assessment. It is also employed in programs such as Online Accounting-Auditing, which requires multiple online evaluations.

The tool is also widely used in the Bachelor of Education and the upcoming Bachelor of Social Work, featuring numerous asynchronous classes.

In master’s programs, proctoring is used less frequently as the emphasis is on tasks, projects, and papers, although specific assessments may still require its use.

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Experience and improvements in implementation

UNACH has learned from past experiences and sought ways to improve the implementation of proctoring. In the past, contractual difficulties arose with some students due to concerns about confidentiality and webcam activation during tests.

To address these issues, a document was created that students must sign upon enrolling in the institution. This document complies with current regulations in Chile and explains the tool’s functioning, allowing students to give their informed consent.

Transparency and communication

In addition to the contract, students must also accept terms and conditions when accessing the Moodle platform, which includes proctoring services.

UNACH has chosen to be fully transparent about the systems used for proctoring and is creating a series of explanatory videos to be published on the institution’s website.

These videos will detail the online processes, including how proctoring works, to provide students with a clear and comprehensive understanding of the tools used.

From SMOWL, we highlight the accessibility and ease of use of the tool for both teachers and students.

Esteban Lucero Quiñones, Director of Virtual Education at UNACH

Online undergraduate at UNACH: distance learning and proctoring.

Selection of SMOWL and notable features

The choice of SMOWL as a proctoring provider is based on its “ability to meet student authentication standards and ensure the integrity of assessments,” explains Esteban Lucero Quiñones, Director of Virtual Education.

The tool has been well-received by teachers, despite the initial need to familiarize themselves with its use. “During the pandemic, it became evident that teachers needed a way to verify the authenticity of online assessments, and SMOWL provided the necessary solution,” argues Esteban Lucero.

Additionally, UNACH also highlights the “accessibility and ease of use of the tool for both teachers and students.”

SMOWL is a crucial tool for online undergraduate programs

In conclusion, Universidad Adventista de Chile  (UNACH) has implemented SMOWL’s proctoring software to ensure online assessments’ integrity and authenticity, primarily in their undergraduate programs.

Through a gradual and transparent approach, UNACH has successfully incorporated proctoring into its academic programs, providing students and teachers with the necessary confidence in online assessment processes.

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