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How To Prevent Online Cheating

Student Cheating
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One of the issues that you may have to deal with when teaching an online class is attempting to prevent students from cheating on quizzes and exams. While complete prevention cannot be guaranteed, there are things you can do to mitigate students from cheating online.

A colleague of mine contacted me for advice because he suspected that his online students were cheating on his quizzes and exams. He noticed that a lot of the students were earning high grades on his online assessments. It was as though they had access to the answer key to his exams. My colleague wanted to know if there was an online tool that could help with the cheating problem.

Fortunately, there are several tools available; however, these tools need to be utilized in concert with some other techniques. 

Here are 6 ways to make it more difficult for students to cheat online:

  1. Test bank: If you are using a publisher’s test bank you risk having answer keys floating around on the Internet that students might be able to download and use during your exam. I would highly suggest that you begin writing your own quizzes and exams. I don’t mean taking the publisher’s material and recycling them, I’m talking about creating original questions created by you. Be sure to shuffle or randomize the questions and answers for each student.
  2. Time limit:  Limit the time for a quiz or exam so that students who studied have just enough time to read and answer the questions promptly.  They should not have enough time to look up the answers. There isn’t a scientific formula for the length of time per question, but if your quizzes and exams are multiple choice, I would recommend 45 seconds per word question and a minute or two for questions that require calculations. When determining the length needed, test your time limits by taking the assessments yourself and adjust the time limit as needed.
  3. Types of Questions: If you are in the habit of only using multiple-choice questions for your assessments, STOP! Use a combination of questions types including multiple-choice, short-answers, essays, and problems. Yes, it will take you longer to grade, but it will maintain the integrity and academic rigor of your course assessments while mitigating cheating.
  4. Detailed Work: If your assessments include problems that students have to solve, list them as short-answer questions rather than multiple choice. Insist that the students write every step that they took in order to get to the correct answer. Inform your students that simply listing the correct answer is insufficient and that no credit will be awarded unless all steps are listed and the answer is correct.
  5. Online Tools: There are several proctoring tools that you can use to mitigate cheating online, some of these tools or services include: Proctorio, Respondus Lockdown browser, ProctorU, and examity. Some of these services or programs force the student to verify their identity to a remote proctor by showing their face, ID, and their testing environment before taking the exam. Some of the other tools include software that has to be installed on the student’s computer and it locks the computer so that students are not able to surf the Internet, print, or look up answers.  These tools are not free, so check with your school to find out if they subscribe to any of them.

Students are pretty crafty and some of them would rather take the time to look up the answer and cheat rather than study and earn an honest grade. The onus is on you the faculty to ensure that you are doing everything possible to cover the material and also monitor and mitigate opportunities for cheating.

Well, I hope you found this post useful. If you did, I’d be grateful if you’d help spread the word by sharing this with friends or colleagues on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or any other social media platform you use.

Dr. Fawaz Al-Malood

Dr. Fawaz Al-Malood is a college administrator, author, blogger, YouTuber, and podcaster. He holds a doctorate in education management from the University of South Africa, a MBA from Western Governors University, a MS in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University, a bachelors in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Administration, and a Swiss Diploma in Hotel Management from the Hotel Institute Montreux. He is the Founder of a blog dedicated to sharing successful strategies on: teaching, productivity, and professional development for college educators.