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Professional Development Online Teaching Resources

What issue(s) are you having?

There’s no one-size fits all answer to academic dishonesty online (or face-to-face for that matter). However, there are a lot of options to help address particular problems that are occurring. The first step to treating the issue is to objectively take stock of the problem.

Questions to help put the issue in perspective and narrow down what needs to be changed:

  1. How many confirmed instances of academic dishonesty do you have this semester?
  2. How many confirmed instances did you have during your last semester (F2F)?
  3. Where did the academic dishonesty occur? On major exams, weekly quizzes, assignments, homework? How many of each?
  4. What kind of academic dishonesty occurred?
    1. Students worked together
    2. Use of CHEGG, Google, or other cheating mechanisms/apps
    3. Someone else did the work (took the test, wrote the paper, etc.)
    4. Students gave other students the answers
    5. Other
  5. When you talked to the students who engaged in academic dishonesty, did you ask why they did so? What answer did they give?

Which quick fixes / long-term changes fit your issues?

The following are a list of quick, short-term options for protecting the integrity of your exams. A combination of several of these will make it dramatically tougher for quick & dirty academic dishonesty to occur: 

Mix It Up.

Randomize the question order. - Job Aid 
Benefit: Negates "The answer to #1 is..." since "#1" will be different for each student.

Randomize the order of answers with multiple choice/closed-ended questions. - Job Aid (scroll to #11)
Benefit: Negates "The answer to that one is B!" since "B" will be different for each student.

Use question pools that randomly select questions so students don't receive the same exams.- Job Aid
Benefit: Negates students "giving" the test to other students.

 

Adjust the Timing.  

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Set a time restriction that only allows enough time to read the questions, answer, and move on. - Job Aid
Unsure how much time to give? Time taking the exam yourself and add 50%.
Benefit: Lessens the time students have to try and "save" the exam for others or look up answers.

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Reduce the exam availability window. - Job Aid
Benefit: Reduces the possibility of one student taking it early and sharing questions/answers with others.

  • Try opening it for just one day, possibly a one time slot.
  • Offer multiple time-slots on different days but change up the sets of questions.

 

Investigate Other Options.

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Set max. 5 questions per page and don’t allow students to move back once they’ve moved on. - Job Aid
Benefit: Prevents students going back once they're finished and recording questions/answers for others. 

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Add follow-up questions that ask students to explain answers. Job Aid (scroll to #7)
Benefit: Negates straight copy&paste of answers. (note: cannot shuffle questions when doing this)

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Present the definition/examples of academic dishonesty, how it can be easily spotted, and consequences. 
Benefit: Some studies suggest this is one of the most effective strategies for reducing cheating.

Consider putting a release condition on the quiz to make students acknowledge and reflect on this in some way:

  • An assignment requiring them to read the above then write a short summary of the main ideas.
  • Multiple auto-graded quiz questions. Only 100% will "release" the exam.

Benefit: The impact of the honor code is more effective when actually read and understood vs. a quick signature. 

Rethink Exams.

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Shift to knowledge-application questions that aren’t easily Googled.
  • Use higher-level Bloom's questions: Check out some ideas here.
  • Use subjective/personal elements (some instructors have put in a variable and had students draw on their own lives to fill that variable; example: find a triangle in your home vs. providing them with one). 
  • Create case studies that students need to interpret and apply knowledge to.

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Ensure assignments and exams are manageable. 
  • Complete an exam or assignment yourself or have someone (not another professor) try it out.
  • There have been many exams/assignments that seemed good in theory but were nearly impossible in practice.

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Regularly correspond with students and provide them prompt and meaningful feedback.
  • It lets students know they're not just a number.
  • It will also help you recognize a student’s “voice” and identify when it’s not them on the other end.
  • Also, if students feel you don't even know their names, why would they think you'd notice if they cheated?

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Consider a post-test review where students assess what they got wrong, why, and how they’ll avoid those mistakes again.
  • This feedback loop will also help you recognize a student’s “voice” and identify when it’s not them on the other end.
  • It also helps students understand that tests aren't one-off experiences but opportunities for growth.
  • If you're someone whose students toss the graded exams aside without looking at them, this might be the technique for you!
 

Reduce "High Stakes" Pressure 

Provide more frequent, shorter, exams (15-30 minutes tops) rather than long, heavily weighted exams. 
Benefits: Keeps the testing window short, makes testing a consistent part of the class instead of a looming hurdle in students' minds. 

Provide a practice exam before the first exam with unlimited attempts so students can experience your exam format, timing, etc. Benefits: Gives students an opportunity to experience technical glitches, exam format, timing, etc., reducing fear of the unknown for students. 

Provide ungraded self-assessments throughout the course that mimic your exam format.
Benefits: Same as above. 

 

Flip the Script. 

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Students are sharing information?
Replace exams with collaborative assignments where students are meant to work together.
Can you identify real-life scenarios you could mimic where students work together to solve complex problems or situations? 

How do I stop online students from cheating?

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Students are using Google, their textbooks, etc.?
Let them. Encourage it. Build your questions so that just looking up the information isn't enough.

Reduce Cheating in Online Courses or Why Open-book Tests Deserve a Place in Your Courses

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Students intent on cheating on exams?
Swap exams for research projects, portfolios, group work, presentations, etc. 

Check out some ideas here from Berkeley or 50 Classroom Assessment Techniques.

Finally, ask yourself these questions.

Whatever lengths you take to prevent academic dishonesty, before employing, please consider:

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Have you made it more difficult for students doing the right thing to do well? 

Sometimes anti-cheating measures can become obstacles for students trying to do the right thing.

You may have students who are less tech-savvy or have difficulties with reading/writing. 

Weigh “catching” cheaters against costing honest, hard-working students success. 

 

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Have you let your students know what to expect?

Many of the solutions above may create a different kind of testing environment than students are used to.

Don't blindside already nervous students with time-limits, the inability to move back through pages, and so on.

Telling students about anti-cheating measures ahead of time may deter some academic dishonesty right from the start.

Also, letting students go in with their eyes wide open can reduce excuses later on. 

Consider giving students a practice test to give them a feel for the testing experience. 


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