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Preventing Cheating

September 08, 2016

By Matthew Schmitz

A question instructional designers are often asked by faculty members is “How can I prevent cheating?” There are a number of long, drawn-out answers but the truth can be found in this simple statement: Reducing opportunities for cheating involves more work – both for faculty members and for their students. However, the increased workload will ideally lead to more rewarding teaching and learning experiences.

There are many reasons why students might cheat, including lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, or lack of interest in the topic. Despite the cause of the behavior, one way to prevent cheating is to make it more difficult for students. One method is abandoning the traditional, multiple choice exams and quizzes often given to students. One reason for an assessment is to gauge students’ understanding of content previously provided or assigned. Instead of having students engage in memorization and regurgitation practices, requiring students to demonstrate application of knowledge – making the students demonstrate that they know what they were assigned to learn – is one way to ensure they have acquired the knowledge.

All of this sounds great for a smaller, traditionally-sized course, but what if the number of students enrolled in the course dictates that alternative assessments aren’t easily possible? Is there a faculty member or group of TAs who want to grade hundreds of short essays for an introductory-level Biology course? Of course not, but there are methods of reducing or eliminating cheating, including using multiple versions of an assessment or randomizing both the questions and answers on a test. Instead of a series of multiple choice, true/false, or matching questions, require students to write a paper or give a presentation to demonstrate their knowledge. (You might be thinking “This can’t be accomplished in my discipline,” but there are alternative assessment opportunities and possibilities in every subject area.) Given that each student is required to produce an original paper or presentation, the chances of cheating are greatly reduced. Two students having identical answers on a test might be commonplace but two students submitting the same paper or giving the same presentation will definitely throw a flag.

This post barely scratches the surface of this important and multi-faceted topic. Members of the Center for Faculty Development and Innovation, ITS’ Instructional Design & Learning Technologies group, and others would be happy to continue this discussion online or at a future event. Let us know what you think in the comments below.While alternative assessments might make it more difficult for students to cheat during an assessment, taking steps to minimize cheating makes faculty members’ jobs more difficult in both the grading and design phases. Not only do essay tests, papers, and presentations take more time to grade than traditional multiple choice assessments, but faculty members need to invest more time in creating valid and reliable questions and scenarios to utilize, as well as potentially provide additional guidance for students while they complete alternative assessments. Minimizing or preventing cheating will require more work from faculty members than from students but, ideally, that work will pay off in increased student performance and retention.

(Note: To help minimize cheating, SIUE licenses Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor as mechanisms to create a more secure testing environment and minimize opportunities for cheating. If you’re interested in learning about LockDown Browser, contact ITS to schedule a consultation or demonstration. If you’d like, you can also attend the upcoming webinar LockDown Browser & Respondus Monitor: Prevent Cheating During Online Exams. You may attend either the September 13th session or the September 28th session. Register for the webinar at: http://www.respondus.com/products/webinar/)

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