Cheating has always been a problem in education. Students struggle to learn content, or perhaps they are too lazy to put in the effort, leading to temptation. When this happens, some students decide that getting the answer in any way possible is better than knowing the answer themselves.
As teachers, there is an obligation to make sure that students know what we say they know. If a student can complete a course or degree through dishonesty, it reflects on the student’s incompetence and the institution(s) that the student was able to deceive. As such, there are several ways to address cheating in the online context.
In a traditional classroom, it is common for teachers to use traditional forms of assessment such as multiple-choice, fill in the blank, etc. There is nothing wrong with this form of assessment in the appropriate context. However, when students are taking assessments online, it is easy to collaborate, share and answers, and copy from one another.
There are several ways to address this. One is to avoid traditional assessment altogether and have students complete various authentic forms of assessment. Examples can include projects, presentations, papers, etc. In other words, create assessments that match the real world and even may encourage collaboration.
Even though traditional assessment is an acceptable form of gauging a student’s knowledge, almost nobody makes a living taking tests and quizzes. The real world is based on collaboration in which somebody has the answer, and the real test is finding resources to accomplish something. This is where the beauty of authentic assessment becomes so practical in the online context.
Writing papers is another tried and true way of assessing students’ knowledge of a given subject matter. However, there are practical problems if the class is really large, and of course, plagiarism has been a problem before online assessment was around. For large classes, writing papers may not be practical unless the teacher wants to spend all of their vacation reading student papers. As such, each teacher needs to set their upper limit of how many papers they are willing to read.
For plagiarism, there are already many different websites and software that can detect plagiarism. However, if plagiarism is detected, the teacher needs to investigate the paper personally as computer algorithms are never 100% accurate. Remember that this is a student’s grade, and there must be care in any accusations of dishonesty and negative effects on the final grade.
For Traditional Assessment
If the only appropriate way to assess a student’s knowledge is through traditional means, there are ways to still maintain academic integrity. Some teachers have chosen to monitor students’ desktops during an exam. This is not the most efficient way of proctoring, but the psychological impact is often enough to deter cheating even if the teacher cannot see everything the student is doing.
Another strategy is to have a pool of questions rather than have each student see the same questions. For example, perhaps the teacher creates 40 multiple-choice, but each student only sees 10 of these questions. In addition, the letter answer for the same question can be scrambled so that for the same question, one student would mark “A” for the correct answer, and another would mark “B.”
Cheating can be further discouraged through something called individualize timed assessment. This technique involves giving students sections of the exam at certain times rather than giving them all of the exam at once. For example, you can make several separate assessments that students have to complete during the exam time, such as the following
- Multiple choice
- Short Answer
You can set things so that maybe one student completes each section at a time or multiple students. For example, some students might start with a short answer while others start with matching. It is completely up to you. In addition, you set a time limit for each section, such as may be students get 20 minutes per section before they have to move to the next one.
You can be even more specific in some learning management systems where you can set a time limit for individual questions. Doing this in combination with a pool of questions, scrambling the correct answer, and using individualize time assessments makes cheating much more difficult.
Students will continue to evolve new ways to beat the system. Despite this, teachers must be ready with their own bag of tricks to discourage students from going down this path.