Cracking Down on Cheating in Online Exams: A Playbook for Academic Integrity
Apart from impacting the lives of millions, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about substantial changes in how educational institutions operate, particularly in their approaches to teaching and conducting exams. And as a response to the pandemic’s challenges, educational institutions have pivoted to online teaching and taking exams for the majority of their courses.
This shift away from in-campus teaching and monitoring has made online assessments more susceptible to academic misconduct, including contract cheating, and fabrication — when compared to traditional campus learning and assessing examinations.
Given that the pandemic acted as the driving force behind the shift to online exams, the primary focus now centers on upholding academic integrity in online assessments.
The Importance of Maintaining Academic Integrity
As digital assessments become increasingly ubiquitous, maintaining the highest standards of integrity has assumed paramount importance. Before we dive into the steps required to prevent cheating, let’s first underscore some key points that emphasize the pressing need for academic integrity:
Academic integrity goes hand in hand with fairness — as it calls for a fair shot to every student at displaying true abilities, and simultaneously, preventing any unfair advantages that could stem from dishonest practices like cheating.
Likewise, in the social media dominance world that we live in, the protection of the institution’s reputation takes on increased significance. This ensures that the degrees they grant remain highly regarded by both employers and society.
What’s Driving this Need for Academic Integrity?
It has become quite intriguing to witness the clever ways students come up with when it comes to cheating on exams. They’ve evolved from the traditional method of scribbling notes on paper or their hands to the use of fancy mobile apps for collaborating with their friends. Even in the world of online exams, cheating still has its appeal — posing a significant challenge to academic integrity.
If you’re wondering what drives educational institutions to implement rigorous measures as online exams become more prominent, potentially jeopardizing their academic integrity, here are a few notable reasons:
For instance, a student taking an online exam might use a split-screen feature, keeping the exam on one side while looking up answers on the other. They could also appear engrossed in their on-screen activities while secretly using a messaging app to exchange questions and answers with a friend.
Some students even turn to online resources such as discussion boards and study materials to find answers to their questions. In more extreme cases, students might go to the extent of paying someone else to take exams on their behalf, guaranteeing them a passing grade without putting in any effort themselves.
These compelling drivers emphasize why educational institutions are intensifying their vigilance in online exams — that has a direct impact on academic integrity.
Five Effective Strategies to Prevent Cheating
A paper titled “Cheating in Online Courses: Evidence from Online Proctoring,” co-authored by two professors at Radford University, discovered that cheating often happened in online classes without supervision. But when a proctoring tool was used to monitor the exams, cheating went down. Their conclusion was that using some form of direct proctoring is one of the best ways to prevent cheating in important online exams.
Nevertheless, before delving into the intricacies of these advanced tools, it’s worth noting that there are several strategies that can be highly beneficial in addressing these issues, which we will discuss in the following section.
- A Watchful ‘Eye’ in Wearable Cameras
Wearable cameras help make online exams fair and honest in many ways. They watch over the area where the test is taken, making sure there are no cheating tools or gadgets. These cameras can also record what is on the test-taker’s screen to prevent them from sharing screens with others or vice versa.
Real-time proctoring, through the use of cameras — be it in the form of webcams or wearables — allows for swift action when unusual behavior is observed. In this era of AI and machine learning, advanced data analysis and AI algorithms come into play to detect irregularities, like identifying eye movements that suggest the use of unauthorized materials.
The mere presence of wearable cameras not only stops students from cheating but also influences them psychologically, making them less likely to cheat.
- Surveillance through Screenshots
Amid the pandemic’s unprecedented impact on education, capturing screenshots during online exams is one notable trend that has gained traction. With the support of remote proctoring tools, this method allows the test organizer to capture random screenshots of the examinee’s screen throughout the exam.
For example, during an online exam, a remote proctoring tool can be used to capture screenshots every few minutes. These snapshots serve as a means of identifying unauthorized web access or cheat materials. The test administrator then reviews these images for any suspicious activity, like open study material tabs — calling for an action then and there.
This combination of advanced surveillance and detection methods deployed to prevent cheating in the online environment caters to the changing demands of education in a world still grappling with the effects of the pandemic.
- Authenticating for True Identity
Impersonation ranks among the most prevalent forms of examination fraud, where students avoid taking the exam themselves and instead have others take it in their place. This unethical practice compromises the integrity of assessments.
AI-driven authentication tools, however, present a formidable solution to this issue. These tools use facial scans and identity verification processes to make sure that the person taking the exam is the right student. By doing this, they prevent someone else from pretending to be the student. This makes exams more secure and ensures that they are fair and accurate, even when taken online or remotely.
- Catching those Phrases
Online exams and remote viva assessments pose a unique challenge: there’s no one there to watch students in person. This means some students might be tempted to cheat, especially by using voices and sounds in the room to get help.
With smartphones becoming smarter and sometimes used for cheating in online exams, phrases like ‘Siri’ or ‘Hey, Google’ are now commonly heard. To address this problem, there is voice recognition software that is designed to listen for and identify these specific words or phrases.
These tools can listen in real-time and even record the entire audio session for later review, which is particularly useful for viva exams. When it identifies such triggers, it immediately alerts the remote proctor, who can then intervene through a chat box.
- IP Tracking for Location-Based Integrity
IP tracking in online exams plays the role of a vigilant watchdog. It keeps a close eye on every student’s IP address and immediately alerts if they try to change their device’s location or IP. This ensures students take the test where they should, stopping them from going to the unauthorized place to cheat and get an unfair advantage.
With these features, examiners can catch unauthorized logins from IP addresses not on the recorded list. If someone tries to take the test from a wrong place, the online proctor can quickly spot and report them.
Disamina’s AI-Powered Approach to Maintaining Integrity
Powered by artificial intelligence, our proctoring tools provide educational institutions the ideal solutions to monitor online exams and combat cheating effectively. Our host of proctoring solutions work in tandem to provide institutions with an invincible toolkit in the fight to uphold academic honesty.
Education is among the various sectors that has undergone a great change in recent years, largely driven by the swift pace of technological progress. These innovations have not only made learning more accessible but also more engaging than ever before. And now, technology is pushing the boundaries once again by revolutionizing how exams are conducted, even in online settings.
Universities and instructors should give serious thought to incorporating virtual proctoring technology. This ensures the preservation of academic integrity as a strong base for a high-quality education, without compromising academic standards — particularly in online learning environments.
The adoption of virtual proctoring has marked a significant step forward in safeguarding the trustworthiness and integrity of exams, all while adapting to the evolving educational environment. With ongoing technological advancements, the incorporation of these innovations promises a more secure and dependable assessment process, ultimately serving the best interests of both educators and students.