Deterring cheating in online learning

Oct 28, 2021

by Theresann H. Gatapia

Cheating or academic misconduct is when learners fail to excel with integrity. This happens when a student attempts to get credit in a way that is dishonest, untrustworthy, or unfair. 

And this isn’t something new. With the different ways students do it, this is a real issue that schools have encountered during the traditional face-to-face setup. As we move towards online education, not only does the delivery of learning change, the technology also poses more opportunities for the different modes of cheating. The question is how can we prevent this academic misbehavior in an online platform and what methods can educators implement to ensure that learning integrity is preserved online. 

There are several strategies and tactics that colleges and universities designed to mitigate (and eventually eliminate) cheating. We can take notes from their approach.

Establish academic integrity policies

One of the simplest methods to deter cheating is establishing a policy about it in the student code of conduct. Schools must set clear ground rules for any form of cheating in any mode of learning. Students must be fully aware of the repercussions of their actions when they break the policy. 

It is also a good idea for educators to consistently be creative in reminding students of these policies and guidelines before taking any academic work. Being reminded about the gravity of this misbehavior is impactful, especially right before exams begin.

Familiarize yourself with LMS functions in developing assessments

Learning management systems (LMS) allow you to create, develop, and tailor-fit your assessments to your students. It also has some features that will help you reduce the possibility of cheating. Some of these are:

Vary assessment tools. This will allow you to create diverse assessment types from those that measure low-level thinking (remembering, understanding, applying) to high-level thinking (analysis, evaluation, synthesis, creation). 

Restrict testing windows. Assigning testing slots for each course would be helpful. Have every student start the exam at the same time, and limit how long each student will have to take the exam. 

Set up the exam to show one question at a time. This will prohibit students from quickly looking over all of the test questions and having multiple tabs open to research answers in advance. 

Prohibit backtracking. This will keep students from using extra time at the end of the test to try to locate the correct answer and force them to answer the question currently presented to them. 

Change the test question sequence. In the test settings, have the order of test questions be different for each exam along with the order of answer choices for each test question. This will prevent tech-savvy students from employing screen-sharing technologies in an effort to take the exam at the same time as their classmates and share answers. 

Allow taking the test only once. In a traditional setup, retaking the test is not common; the same principle must be followed in online courses. 

Delay score availability. Not having the scores and feedback immediately available to students after the test completion will prohibit one student who finishes early from seeing their score and then advising students who have not completed the test yet.

Target higher-order thinking skills

Having test questions that are designed to target higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and creation would not only prohibit cheating but would also measure students’ competencies in a more challenging and realistic approach. When questions or tasks require them to authentically demonstrate their mastery of course content,  It will not easy to Google answers.

Utilize online tools and software

There are several proctoring tools that you can use to mitigate online cheating. These tools or services include Respondus, Proctorio, Examity, and ProctorU. These programs force the students to verify their identities to a remote proctor before taking the exam. There are also custom softwares like:

  • Lockdown browser. This locks a student’s ability to browse the internet, print, or look up answers during an exam.
  • Turnitin, SafeAssign, or CopyLeaks. These are text-matching software that assess the likelihood of plagiarism. However, these tools are not free, so check with your school about a subscription. 

Create a culture of integrity 

Above all, it is essential for every learning institution to create an environment where everyone manifests honesty and integrity. Students, parents, and fellow educators must commit to these values. Educators need to seek ways to develop, infuse, and normalize integrity in the classroom culture, in order to foster a trusting relationship with students.

About the Author
Theresann H. Gatapia is a licensed professional teacher and is currently the Courseware Development Manager of Xepto Education.  Prior to Xepto, she was the program manager of Asian Institute of Management – MSc. in Data Science. She also led the content and curriculum development of the Affordable Private Education Center under the Ayala Corporation. She taught primary and middle level in both local and international schools and obtained her Master’s Degree at De La Salle University.

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