Tag Archives: cheating

Online Academic Dishonesty

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.

Authentic Assessment

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

  1. Multiple choice
  2. Matching
  3. 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.

Academic Cheating

Academic dishonesty, in the form of cheating and or plagiarism, is one of the unfortunate consequences of education. For example, in Southeast Asia, a group of students were caught cheating on an exam to enter medical school. Their strategy involved the use of smartwatches. People outside the building were sending wireless messages to the students through their smartwatches with prospective correct answers. The students who were caught paid around $30,000 for the illicit support, which is about 10 times the yearly minimum wage in the country.

Another example involves students wearing what has been referred to as “anti-cheating hats”. These hats essentially involve wearing paper on one’s head to block your view of all the people around you so you can only see your own answer sheet. Locally, this is done as a joke to remove the stress of the exam. However, when international media found a photo of this on social media they took it as a sign of intense cheating and dishonesty,  which embarrassed the school.

The majority of high school and college students have admitted to cheating in one form or another. This includes critical fields such as medical school. Such rampant behavior must have some causes. At such, in this post, we will look at causes and simple solutions for cheating. In this post, we will look at motivations for cheating as well as solutions to alleviate the problem.


One reason for the large amounts of cheating is that it is highly successful with less than 2% of students being caught when teaching. With a success rate of almost 100%, there is almost no reason to be honest if your grade is in danger. If an adult knew that there was almost a 99% chance of getting away with a crime, such a crime is highly likely to increase.

Another factor is the fact the students can be inattentive to their studies. With all the distractions of friends, family, work, and entertainment it can be hard for students to exercise the discipline to study. Besides, when students do study it is often for the goal of memorization rather than comprehension. Understanding is hard to forget but the memory is weak. Add to this the belief of cramming and staying up late before exams and students will experience intense anxiety when they cannot recall a key idea or concept.

Teachers can also contribute to cheating. If a teacher is unclear, heavily focused on memorizing, provides little feedback, these can all contribute to students cheating to “survive.” If students think a teacher is unfair in their assessment and or instruction they will try to even the playing field through cheating.


Clear communication of what to expect on exams as well as preparation through reviewing can help to reduce cheating. If students know what to expect and believe they are prepared there is less pressure to cheat in order to control things students think they cannot control. However, it is up to the teacher that they understand the importance of consistency between what is taught and assessed in their classroom to establish the trust necessary that the teacher is not looking to fail students but to help students excel.

Another strategy is to move away from heavy memorizing closed question exams to critical thinking open-ended exams. Multiple choice, matching, true/false, etc. are all examples of questions with one answer. If there is only one answer, a student simply needs to memorize the one answer.

Open-ended questions require critical thinking and the development of a unique answer based on the student’s prior experience. Essay questions are one example of this. It is extremely difficult to memorize an essay question answer in advance. This naturally helps to reduce the temptation to cheat do to the hopelessness of that at the moment.

Providing alternative forms of assessment can also help. Some students just do not do well with exams. Considering that at some universities the mid-term and final exam can account for over 60% of the final grade such high stakes testing can encourage cheating. Through providing smaller more frequent assignments teachers can support learning while decreasing high stakes testing.


Cheating will always be a challenge in education. With the distractions that young people face, the culture of accepting academic dishonesty, and the incredible inability to catch students who do this. There is little hope that the current situation will change. A student cannot cheat without opportunity. Therefore, the use of preventive measures that help to reduce the risk of academic dishonesty.