Online Classes Lead to Online Cheating

The growing popularity of online classes has given rise to a new generation of cheating techniques. A simple Internet search reveals thousands of links offering different ways to get an A while fooling the testing systems.

The article by The Chronicle of Higher Education Online Classes See Cheating Go High-Tech describes an arms race between cheaters and the test system designers. Online cheating is inherently easier since there is no over site while the student is taking the test. The student has access to the Internet for answers and is able to easily converse with others over chat programs and shared online documents such as Google Docs.

From the article – an example of a cheating methodology:

[T]he professor in the course had tried to prevent cheating by using a testing system that pulled questions at random from a bank of possibilities. The online tests could be taken anywhere and were open-book, but students had only a short window each week in which to take them, which was not long enough for most people to look up the answers on the fly. As the students proceeded, they were told whether each answer was right or wrong.

[The student] figured out that the actual number of possible questions in the test bank was pretty small. If he and his friends got together to take the test jointly, they could paste the questions they saw into the shared Google Doc, along with the right or wrong answers.

The first student often did poorly, since he had never seen the material before, though he would search an online version of the textbook on Google Books for relevant keywords to make informed guesses. The next student did significantly better, thanks to the cheat sheet, and subsequent test-takers upped their scores even further. They took turns going first. Students in the course were allowed to take each test twice, with the two results averaged into a final score.

Fortunately tools have been designed to help deter and catch cheaters; these apply to essay questions rather than a multiple choice. To help grade the essays researchers are designing systems to preform writing analysis, gender, and word fingerprinting to match a writing sample to an individual. To prevent plagiarism systems are already in use to compare a writing submission against a vast library of quotes, essays, websites, and other students’ work.


Blackboard's learning-management software features a service that checks papers for signs of plagiarism, and thousands of professors around the country use it to scan papers when they are turned in.

In the end people who want to cheat will find a way. To help lessen online cheating universities should use a combination of technological tools and instill a sense academic honesty and integrity in their students.

Links:

Northeastern University Academic Integrity Policy
Northeastern University Code of Student Conduct

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