Online learning has grown exponentially on and off of college campuses and throughout education. It has enabled students all over the world to gain certifications and college degrees without physically residing on or commuting to campus. Unfortunately, the system is vulnerable to abuse and it’s possible for some students to cheat. Providing proctors to monitor students taking online classes and exams from their personal devices in the confines of their own home can be very difficult. Preventing student cheating within the classroom is difficult enough.
A survey conducted by the International Center for Academic Integrity found that 68% of undergraduates admitted cheating on tests or in written work and 43% of graduate students also confessed. The growing number of students taking online courses and their increasing technological savviness has contributed to the rise in cheating. This problem will only continue to grow if it goes unchecked.
Students in general are not necessarily becoming less honest. It’s just become a lot easier to cheat with online courses, especially without proctors. Stressing out, fear of failure, professors who don’t crack down, and students thinking they won’t get caught have all led to increased cheating behavior. In her article, How to Catch Students Cheating on Online Tests, Katherine Krueger notes that one student calls online cheating a “victimless crime,” and this is why some students don’t have remorse for doing it, even though cheating on examinations actually deprives the student of learning. The same student summed up his case for cheating as “we’re not taught to learn the material. We’re taught to get the highest grade possible.”
The internet enables all kinds of content to be shared. WriteMyPaper, CollegeTermPapers, HomeworkMarket, RushEssay, CourseHero, and other sites enable students to have others complete their work. Granted some of these sites such as CourseHero and Chegg are not meant to enable cheating, but rather act as online tutoring services; however some students use them for dishonest purposes and share answers to exams. The hundreds, if not millions, of websites that provide these services would not stay in business if there were not a demand.
With cheating on the rise it’s not surprising that the business for deterring cheating is also thriving. TurnItIn.com calculates similarities between essays, i.e. detects plagiarism, but now there are also sites and programs that view and analyze the students themselves during testing to find cheaters. ProctorU, Respondus LockDown Tool, Faronics Insight, Safe Browser, ExamSoft, and Proctortrack, are examples of services that keep watch on students taking online tests.
Respondus LockDown Tool restricts the student’s browser thereby cutting off students’ ability to communicate with outside sources during the test. A Dallas County Community College District Professor says, “I can't imagine NOT using LockDown Browser! It has greatly improved my experience with online courses and testing.”
ProctorU uses live proctors via webcams to prevent cheating. The test-taking student has to show the proctor their ID and the proctor takes a picture of the student to verify their identity. ProctorU ensures the integrity of the exam process by keeping an eye on the student via webcam and screen-sharing technology. The company has 700+ partner institutions and over 600 employees, showing strong growth over the 30 partners it had 5 years ago.
Proctortrack verifies student identity with ID card, facial, and knuckle scans over a webcam. With continuous verification throughout the exam, ProctorTrack prevents students from receiving help from friends, unauthorized devices, textbooks, or notes and it blocks certain keystrokes and applications. Before installing and using these tools universities and schools should test them and make sure their professors are adequately trained. Each of these tools takes a slightly different approach to prevent or deter cheating during online examinations.
It’s important to note that these forms of catching cheaters are not perfect. For example, Turnitin compares a submitted paper to thousands of other papers to find similarities. Multiple papers might use the same quote as an example and the second and third papers to use it will be flagged as being partially plagiarized even if the student provided proper citation for the content in question.
I have taken some online courses, but never with an online proctor. In my opinion this would cause added stress and anxiety to the student. When I take an online exam I have the pleasure of taking it at my convenience within a specified time period and I don’t need to feel rushed by other students, just the time limit. When I take an only exam I do my best to stay relaxed and might take a break for a minute or two to grab a drink or stand up. If a proctor was watching me via the webcam I would feel anxious and stressed and not sure if it would be ok to move around because the proctor might think I was cheating. Is it fair to put extra stress on individual students like this?
Network analytics, such as Extreme Application Analytics, is a vital tool for educators, especially when students are taking online exams on campus. Analytics allows network IT personnel to constantly monitor network traffic to each student’s device through the school’s internal infrastructure, all the way to remote testing servers. It is a great tool to verify students are not accessing improper resources during testing and, if a worst case scenario strikes, IT can locate and resolve the issue immediately.
The University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, has eliminated cheating during exams without resorting to locking down student devices. Each student is given a different version of an exam, proctors constantly keep their eyes scanning student screens, and it’s fairly easy to tell if any screen changes when it shouldn’t. Student keystrokes are recorded, not so much to identify cheating as to confirm it. With these precautions, it is possible for students to use their own devices and still be confident that the test results are fair.