How to prevent cheating during online exams

Janison|August 2, 2022

In the wake of world events of recent years and their disruption to teaching and learning, educational institutions are increasingly aware of the need to safeguard their teaching and testing schedule and are turning to technology to deliver their online exams. Even those who may have in the past hesitated to embrace online assessment are now seeking out technologies that can guarantee an uninterrupted education calendar, ensuring that students can finish their grade or obtain their qualification.

One of the understandable sticking points for educators when it comes to making a decision to run exams digitally is a concern that this technology makes it easier for students and test-takers to cheat. They’re often surprised to learn that the digital format, by its very nature, in fact means that cheating and plagiarism are actually easier to detect compared with traditional pen-and-paper exams.

Online assessments combine the power and flexibility of cloud technology with software tools that let you seamlessly author, deliver, mark and analyse assessments. The tests run in an online environment and allow for processes such as automated marking of multiple-choice assessments which drives consistent, fair results by eliminating the chance of human error.

The technology also offers similar safeguards when it comes to minimising the opportunities for cheating. Here are just a few of them.

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 an online assessment platform.

Creating questions that require higher-order thinking

One of the tactics which is increasingly popular among educators is setting assessment questions that have a less obvious true or false answer, or that don’t necessarily test rote knowledge which can be easily copied from another student or found in a web search. These higher-order thinking questions require students to analyse and problem-solve their way to the correct answer and are much more difficult to game the system and cheat.

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.

A digital fingerprint on all test attempts

One of the key bonuses that are unique to any activity that’s carried out in a digital or virtual environment is traceability. In an online assessment context, this means that an audit log is recorded of all human touchpoints in a test. Exam invigilators can see this ‘digital fingerprint’ on a student’s activity during their test attempt at any time, making it easy to isolate any suspicious activity or attempts to override cheating safeguards.

The aftermath of cheating can be reputational damage to the institution — something that educators can ill afford. So, it’s reassuring to know that the system you’re depending on to fairly measure your students’ knowledge and skills has been designed to make cheating much harder, and in many instances impossible.

Ready to transition to online assessments? Learn more about how the features within the Janison Insights online assessment platform are designed with effective teaching and learning in mind.

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