Strategies to Mitigate Cheating

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 prompt 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. Rethink high-stakes assignments. High-stakes assignments, such as an exam that counts for 25% or more 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.
  8. Scaffold with objective quizzes/exams. Use low-stakes or ungraded, objective quizzes as formative assessments to help learners succeed on bigger assignments.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 engage with the course’s content and develop valuable collaboration skills.