Strategies to Limit Cheating That Don't Involve Surveilling Students
Using Design and Pedagogy to Prevent Cheating
Drawbacks associated with anti-cheating software
Many university administrators, faculty, and staff are increasingly concerned about the significant issues associated with using anti-cheating software, including issues related to cost, accuracy, and data privacy.
Many anti-plagiarism and exam proctoring tools use student data and student-produced work to improve their products, but also to generate revenue. These activities raise questions about data privacy and intellectual property. Additionally, some researchers wonder whether the facial recognition/comparison and behavioral tracking used by some educational technologies such as ProctorU are contributing to the rise of a culture of surveillance in higher education. Anti-cheating software also isn't free. Proctoring services raise the cost of instruction. Finally, anti-cheating software also can seemingly raise the stakes of an assignment, exacerbating one of the mindsets that prompts learners to cheat in the first place.
Anti-cheating design and teaching strategies
There are a number of things instructors can do in the design process or in their teaching practice to prevent or minimize cheating in online learning environments.
- Clearly define what constitutes cheating. Academic expectations and practices with regard to collaborating and copying differ across cultures, so paste/link/summarize your university's academic integrity/academic misconduct policy in the syllabus or in the course’s "getting started" module.
- Discuss the short- and long-term consequences of cheating. Prompt learners to think beyond the punishments they will suffer if caught by discussing the long-term ramifications they may suffer if they aren't caught.
- Include a certification question. Ask students to acknowledge their academic integrity responsibilities at the beginning of a quiz/exam with a question like this one: “The work I submit as part of this quiz/exam is my own work. I will not consult with, discuss the contents of this quiz/exam with, or show the quiz/exam to anyone else, including other students. I understand that doing so is a violation of UW Bothell’s academic integrity policy and may subject me to disciplinary action, including suspension and dismissal.”
- Mix up your quiz/exam questions. Use test banks, randomize your questions, and use different types of questions. Canvas has developed a number of tutorials for how to create different types of quiz/exam questions.
- Place parameters on quizzes/exams. Canvas allows instructors to place time limits on quizzes, to make it so learners can only see one question at a time, to place response parameters on questions (such as word limits), and to limit learners' access to the correct answers (important if you're allowing multiple attempts).
- Require students to reference course materials in their answers. Asking students to draw on course-specific materials in their answers makes it harder for students to copy/paste answers from other sources.
- Rethink high-stakes assignments. High-stakes assignments, such as an exam that counts for 25% of the course grade, make it hard for a learner to rebound from a mistake. If learners worry that a disastrous exam will make it impossible to pass the course, they are more likely to cheat. Rather than relying on high-stakes assignments/exams, opt for a course design that provides learners opportunities to grow and rebound from missteps.
- Scaffold with objective quizzes/exams. Use low-stakes or ungraded, objective quizzes as formative assessments to help learners succeed on bigger assignments.
- Ask learners to apply their learning. Develop application scenarios in your quiz/exam questions. Be sure that learners have not encountered these scenarios in practice quizzes or discussion prompts.
- Assign reflection. Add short answer questions to a quiz/exam that ask learners to explain or justify their answers on multiple choice questions. Or develop a post-exam assignment that asks learners to justify their exam answers. Instructors need not spend a lot of time grading these; just spot check them to get a sense of whether learners are thinking for themselves.(Note: Canvas classifies short answer questions as "essay" questions.)
BONUS TIP: Allow learners to work together. Ask learners to collaborate to answer quiz/exam questions. By helping each other, learners not only engage the course’s content, they develop valuable collaboration skills.