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Talking Teaching: How to make online assessments resistant to cheating

Tim Wright

Hello, I'm Tim. I'm an Instructional Design Specialist for Lt at ADInstruments. Every month our team of Instructional Designers meets for “Talking Teaching” – sessions where we share and discuss interesting articles, methods, and pedagogies. 

Recently, we discussed how the online tutoring service Chegg was being used by students to cheat. In this blog, I’d like to discuss the extent of the cheating, and what we as educators or lesson creators can do about it.

The articles I’d like to share are:

How are students cheating in their online assessments?

Student online

Chegg provides an online tutoring service where students can post questions and a Chegg staff member will answer them in as few as 30 minutes. They also rent textbooks to students, have an online database of “homework answers”, and have flashcards to help students study. They’ve grown hugely since COVID has forced many students to learn remotely and online.

The use of Chegg becomes a problem when students post questions used in assessments and get answers, allowing them to cheat. Due to COVID, much more assessment is online and remote, which has made using services like Chegg to cheat much easier and more common. It seems that remote proctoring software has not been able to reduce instances of cheating.

What can Instructors do to minimize cheating in online assessments?

Technical

  • Preload answers to Chegg before assessments. Chegg has a service where instructors can upload exam questions in advance and Chegg will prevent students from asking those specific questions for a period of time.

    • If you pre-load questions and answers to Chegg, it may be worth mentioning to students that Chegg and other similar sites like Course Hero will be checked specifically for posted questions.

  • Invigilation software that locks down a browser has been widely used for online remote assessment. This may prevent access to Chegg during assessments, but there has been significant backlash from students against remote proctoring software.

Question/assessment design

Video, audio and oral assessments
  • Use authentic assessments that use questions higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy. These ask students to do more complex application or analysis or to create something, making it more difficult to cheat or share answers when compared with simpler questions like multiple-choice or short-answer questions. Examples:

    • Have students create video or audio presentations.

    • Oral assessment over video chat.

    • Write questions that relate to specific class material.

    • Use student-defined variables in questions, so that each answer is unique. For example, in order to calculate a heat budget for the earth students must choose a distance that the earth is from the sun, then calculate the solar energy/heat systems on earth. Allowing students to change the distance gives the students the opportunity to demonstrate they have the required knowledge (how to calculate a heat budget) and decreases the opportunity to cheat. This makes it harder to post online to get the answer since the answer will only be for one of the possible choices, which also makes it easier to track who posts online.

    • Reflection questions where students apply a concept to their own life.

    • Students designing, carrying out, and analysing their own experiments.

    • Students naming sources and discussing reliability of those sources.

  • Short time limits on assessments.

  • Vary question order within a class, so that students see different questions at different times in the assessment. This is also useful for in-person assessments.

  • Write new questions for every semester.

Join the Discussion

Unfortunately, there’s no easy or low-effort method to combat cheating. Each method requires some amount of extra time and effort, but helps to limit the amount of cheating taking place in the classroom. Have you had a problem with cheating after moving to remote teaching? Did you find a solution that’s different from the ones listed here?

We'd like to invite you to join our online community to engage in discussions on important topics like this and many others related to life science teaching practices and pedagogy. The community connects and reflects a passionate group of life science educators from all over the world. Our hope is that the community is a way for educators to work together, get feedback from each other, and build stronger, more meaningful relationships in real-time - whether these are across campus, or across the globe.

It’s easy to join - if you are already an Lt user simply click here to get started. (And if you aren't, contact us and we'll be happy to help you get started.)


Additional Resources

10 Tips for Teaching Online – How to successfully teach remotely and keep your students engaged »

How to Improve Digital Literacy in Course Design »

How Can We Teach Anatomy Remotely? »

Photosensitivity and Visually Accessible Course Design »

30 Apr 2021

By Tim Wright

Instructional Design Specialist

ADInstruments


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