6 simple strategies to prevent cheating in online exams

It can be interesting how creative students are when it gets to cheating an exam. From the old-school methods of writing small notes on paper, their palms or even their legs, to using various apps on their phones to collaborate with their peers, cheating behavior seems also tempting in online exams.
It’s as clear as research gets.

Seife Dendir, a professor in the Department of Economics at Radford University and R. Stockton Maxwell, in the Department of Geospatial Science, also at Radford, published a paper in December titled, “Cheating in online courses: Evidence from online proctoring.”

In their research, Dendir and Maxwell  found that cheating was happening in unproctored online classes. In those situations, cheating was both common and highly rewarding. When a remote proctoring tool was used to watch the exam, cheating declined. What they stated was that, “some form of direct proctoring is perhaps the most effective way of mitigating cheating during high-stakes online assessments.”

6 strategies to avoid cheating

Apart from using a proctoring tool, there are various strategies that test organizers can adopt and leverage the inherent features within their institution’s Learning Management System (LMS) to decrease cheating during online examinations. Here are some of them:

1. Create questions that require higher order thinking. Instead of having students respond to questions that can be answered by a simple web search or even by finding the answers in their textbooks, create questions that are on the analysis, synthesis and evaluation levels (Bloom, 1956).

2. Use varied question types. Refrain from having an exam with all multiple choice or true and false questions and include open-ended questions. It is more difficult for students to give the same response as their friends verbatim for open-ended questions  and students would be forced to explain their responses using specific details and supporting narratives that are outstanding to their own understanding of the course materials.

3. Creatively remind students of academic integrity policies. Create and post a video explaining the guidelines for the online exam and review the institution’s academic integrity policy and consequences that are listed in the course syllabus. There may be some psychological impact on students after seeing and hearing their instructor discuss academic integrity right before an exam begins, which may deter students who were thinking about cheating.

4. Offer different versions of the same test. It is recommended to have many versions of the same test so that, in the event that students are taking the test in the same physical space, it will be less likely for them to have all the same questions.

5. Verify true identities of test-takers. While it is not that common for a different person to show up and take a candidate’s exam, verifying the true identity of test takers is the safety net to avoid such incidents. ID verification can also be conducted by a proctoring provider like ProctorExam, by measuring the test taker’s ID document against their biometric profile.

6. Use ProctorExam’s mobile phone monitoring option for greater security. ProctorExam offers one extra option to minimize cheating in online exams through the use of candidates’ mobile camera. Without invading their personal information, the mobile phone camera is used for a 360-degree room scan before the exam start and a diagonal view of the candidates’ workspace throughout the exam. Looking at their phones and texting while tested is thus made nearly impossible.

What’s in it for test takers?

“These technologies are not meant to be prohibitive or punitive, rather they are meant to create accountability similar to the in-person classroom,” said Dendir, the Radford professor. “Again, ultimately, online proctoring is just one more step toward creating a level of equivalence between traditional/face-to-face courses – where in-person proctoring is the norm – and online courses”.

Not proctoring an online test procedure can, by default, send students a message that online courses are not as serious and valuable as their in-person counterparts. Professors and schools that are teaching online now should heavily weigh the messages they send by not investing in enhanced forms of course integrity.

Additionally, there is a large group of students who favor it because it makes testing a fair play. Good students get frustrated when other students cheat their way into good grades – and it compels good students to cheat too. It is unfair for students who do not cheat.

Bottom Line

It’s simply not realistic to transition a face-to-face class to a fully optimized online learning environment in the space of a few weeks. It’s also not fair or accurate to point to the improvised and unavoidably glitchy process currently underway as proof of online education’s inferiority, as some skeptics will surely be inclined to do.

The primary objective is to provide students meaningful engagement with faculty members and peers in the move to remote teaching. What does all this have to do with secure and authentic assessment online? Pressure and stress are key drivers of cheating behaviors and students today are experiencing a lot of both. So, students will be feeling connected, supported and encouraged to produce their best of work.