How to Prevent Cheating During Online Tests
Online testing is growing rapidly in education. And it’s no wonder why. Tests are graded automatically, the feedback is immediate, and it provides exceptional data for analytics at the school and district levels.
But online testing frequently leads to concerns about cheating. Students are one click away from searching the Internet for answers. And they often sit in tight proximity to one another, making it easy to see the screens of classmates.
While there are technological solutions to deter cheating during online tests (discussed below), it’s first important to establish a culture of honesty within the classroom itself. For example, if students become aware that classmates are getting away with cheating (e.g., using Google to look up answers during an online test), this behavior will spread to other members of the class very quickly. A culture of dishonesty will then emerge where students feel they must cheat to be competitive.
First Things First: Define “Cheating” and Set Expectations
At the start of a course or school year, have an open discussion with students about academic integrity. It signals to them you’re aware of the issue, that you take cheating seriously, and that your goal is to create a level playing field for everyone in the class.
Begin the discussion by talking about what constitutes cheating in education. Have your students supply some examples, then explore grey areas they may have never considered. For example, discuss how rewriting a paragraph from another source—without giving proper citation—is a form of cheating. Referencing someone else’s year-old homework for the same class is certainly an ethical question. Do students realize that probing a classmate who took a test ahead of them about the test content is a form of cheating? And don’t forget to talk about more obvious methods, such as accessing another website during an online assessment.
If your school has an honor code, this is an ideal time to talk about it too. Also provide details of what will happen if they are caught cheating. Students don’t often realize what they are risking (e.g., suspension, removal from a private school, etc.), so present these details in a matter-of-fact way.
Finally, explain how academic dishonesty makes your job harder as a teacher. Most students think of cheating as a cat-and-mouse game—a way to bump up their scores. They don’t understand how quizzes help teachers determine if a class has mastered a topic.
Explain how adjustments are made to course materials based on how students perform on assessments. Similarly, assessments help instructors identify students who are struggling with a topic. Remedial steps can only be taken if the instructor knows there is a problem. This is especially important in subjects like math and science where learning may be cumulative.
Six Tips to Deter Cheating: Strategy + Technology
Once expectations have been set with students, it is still necessary for teachers to implement ongoing deterrents to cheating. The tips below, which combine strategy and technology, will help you maintain the integrity of online testing in classrooms or proctored labs. (Additional techniques are used for online tests taken in non-proctored settings, such as from home.)
- Offer shorter, more frequent quizzes. This encourages students to keep up on their classwork, and it reduces the incentive to cheat because the value of each quiz is lower than one comprehensive test.
- Remind students before each quiz or test that no phones or other devices should be within their reach (e.g., on the desk, in a pocket, etc.). Frequent reminders convey to students you take cheating seriously, without saying the words themselves.
- If your school has an honor code, present it to students prior to each exam. Research shows this is a powerful method to deter cheating.
- Require students to use the Respondus LockDown Browser with online quizzes and tests. This is a custom browser that prevents Internet searches, accessing notes or other applications on the computer, or copying the exam questions themselves, among other things. Plus it integrates seamlessly with LMSs, such as Schoology.
- Randomize the order of test questions, or have questions randomly selected from a larger question bank. These features will deter students from looking at a classmate’s screen.
- When possible, include one or more subjective questions (e.g., short answer, essay) so students must come up with their own wording to answers. It will be relatively obvious if an answer has been copied from another student or source.
By establishing a culture of honesty at the beginning of a class, and then implementing strategies that deter cheating during the course, you’ll enjoy the many benefits of online testing, without the worries that sometimes come with it.
* To learn how to use LockDown Browser to prevent cheating during Schoology quizzes, join Anna Desmond from Respondus in her session at Schoology NEXT 2017.