How to prevent cheating during online exams

Janison|April 5, 2022

As COVID-19 has disrupted teaching and learning, educational institutions are turning to technology to deliver online and remotely proctored exams. Those who may have in the past hesitated to embrace online assessment solutions are now finding themselves having to rely on these technologies in order to guarantee an uninterrupted education calendar, ensuring that students can finish their grade or obtain their qualification.

A common hesitation among some educators in the past regarding a move from pen and paper to online assessment was the belief that the digital format itself is much harder to control when it comes to the risk of students cheating. Some believed that academic misconduct might be more likely in an online or remote proctored exam setting compared with pen and paper.

In fact, there are many in-built safeguards and features within the technology – built specifically with exam fairness and security in mind – that are designed to prevent the possibility of cheating. Some of these safeguards don’t even exist for pen and paper assessments, which means that in many cases, online and remote assessments are arguably a safer option when it comes to controlling cheating.

Before we explore these features, it’s important to know the difference between online assessments and those that are remotely proctored, because there are nuances between the cheating prevention protocols of each.

What are online assessments?

Online assessments marry cloud technology with software tools that let you seamlessly author, deliver, mark and analyse assessments for hundreds to millions of test-takers. Whether students sit these assessments inside test centres or elsewhere, the point is that the test itself runs in an online environment and is therefore subject to controls, such as automation, that improve the integrity of the exam process. Automated marking of multiple-choice assessments, for example, drive consistent, fair results by eliminating the chance of human error.

What are remote proctored assessments?

Remote proctored assessments allow students to sit exams off-site from their educational institution – including in their homes – using a secure application. For educators, this enables education delivery to continue from anywhere, under any circumstances. Remote online proctoring rapidly gained attention at the height of the pandemic, when it was instrumental, for example, in allowing university applicants to complete their entrance exams, despite being unable to physically get to the university building due to worldwide travel bans.

These solutions substitute in-person invigilation with webcams, AI monitoring and automated proctoring to safeguard academic standards.

The technology is specifically designed to prevent cheating and in some ways can actually surpass a human invigilator’s ability to monitor cheating behaviour.

Let’s take a look at some more ways that online and remote assessment solutions can minimise the opportunities for cheating.

How online and remote assessment technologies prevent cheating

Visual ID verification of test-takers

Within a remote proctored exam scenario, ID verification is a key component of preventing cheating. It lets you compare a test taker’s photo ID to their biometric profile, usually a facial scan, to ensure that the registered candidate is indeed the one sitting the test.

Offering different versions of the same test

During an on-site online assessment, the chance of students glancing at each other’s screens to copy answers is thwarted by a unique feature within the software – a test generator with question randomisation, which serves students the questions in a different order from their neighbour. Selecting questions from a larger bank and varying their delivery sequence is a core authoring function of the Janison Insights online assessment platform.

Creating questions that require higher-order thinking

Exams full of multiple-choice or ‘true or false’ questions alone potentially increase the odds of cheating through the passing of knowledge between candidates. A sophisticated online testing solution incorporates open-ended questions to encourage higher-order thinking, making the transfer of knowledge between candidates far more difficult – because the logic and sequence of thinking needed to answer such questions can be unique to each student and is therefore much harder to copy.

Using AI-assisted monitoring of student behaviour

As a powerful safeguard against cheating, remote exam proctoring monitors candidates’ environments and the content that they’re able to access on their device during the exam. With Janison Remote, exams are recorded via the student’s webcam, while AI-assisted technology flags any suspicious incidents. These can include:

  • A 360-degree scan of their room – preventing, for example, students from hanging the answers to the exam on their walls
  • Identifying when your candidate leaves the room
  • Identifying when additional people are in the room
  • Detecting any unauthorised use of a mobile phone during an exam
  • Tracking test-takers’ eye and head movements for suspicious behaviour. For example, if they repeatedly look down this could be an indication that they are reading from a forbidden source.

These software safeguards are arguably even more stringent at preventing cheating than having a physical examiner present in the room.

Locking down the browser

An online assessment platform is likely to have a feature that allows you to lock down the browser on your students’ devices for the duration of their assessment. This feature, also known as a “locked-down browser”, gives educators full control over what functionality students have during an exam, including restricting access to websites, online applications and screen-recording tools.

Human review of remote proctored assessment footage

Sometimes remote proctoring technology is so stringent, it may flag behaviours during the test session that weren’t in fact indications of cheating. The software makers have already thought of that, too. That’s why they’ve allowed for levels of discretion that only a human can provide in order to safeguard both the student, as well as the educational institution. After the whole remote online exam session is recorded via webcam, a professionally trained proctor can review the recording after the test to report on incidents. They can either pick up additional cheating behaviours or dismiss behaviours that the AI flagged unnecessarily.

A toolbox aimed to protect assessment integrity

The aftermath of cheating can be reputational damage to the institution — something that educators can ill afford. You can deter cheating and protect your reputation with quality-assured exams that assess exam-takers’ knowledge through a combination of technology checks and human attention. This allows you to tailor and configure your online or remote assessment solution with automated checks to support your specific integrity policies and cheating-prevention needs.

Preparing to transition to online assessments? Learn more about how our technology can help you here.

About the Author


Unlocking the potential in every learner

View more blog posts

Subscribe to Janison EduNews