By Danny Wu
“Hey, we’re meeting at the library at three o’clock to take the exam together, there’s four of us”, replied a student on the phone. Minutes later the student and classmates enter a study room at their college’s library to begin taking an online exam together to better their chances of doing well. Students would confirm answers with each other as a group as well as work together to solve problems that may take more time if it was just an individual taking the exam. Online courses are rising at a rapid rate, with “the number of students who took at least some of their courses online grew by more than 350,000” (Lederman). However when it comes to assessment, a different approach is needed to maintain integrity. Since online exams are not in-person, cheating is prone to happen. Resources are currently being invested into this space to ensure that students truly understand the material and can prove it within an authentic environment.
Many LMS’s have built-in tools to minimize cheating for online courses. CUNY’s Blackboard Learn 9.1 provides two software tools, SafeAssign and Turnitin. Both tools analyze assignment submissions to determine an originality percentage as well as a report detailing the findings. The originality percentage is based off of a database composing of other student papers, internet, periodicals, journals, and publications. Key differences between SafeAssign and Turnitin, is that Turnitin has a larger database for reference over SafeAssign as well as restricting the comparison check to specific databases.
For tests or exams, LMS’s such as Blackboard have certain test options that restrict cheating to a minimum. Test options available to completing the test within one sitting, a time limit, or date range. These options can also be used in unison. Instructors can also manipulate how tests are constructed using question pools. This option allows for tests to generate random orders of questions for each student. If questions may vary working together would be a less appealing strategy for students.
However, even with these counter measures, cheating is never fully blocked from the testing taking process. As a result, much research is being poured into the development of anti-cheating tools for online courses. Two main factors when considering cheating prevention in online exams are authentication and proctoring. One option is Auto Authentication, where “the student takes a photo of her ID and face, answers a few challenge questions and enters a biometric keystroke” (Dimeo). This will ensure that there isn’t some other individual taking the test for the designated student. For proctoring we can have options such as Record and Review proctoring, where “the person is videotaped from start to finish of the exam” (Dimeo) with the footage being reviewed later. Another choice is Live Proctoring, “the student and her surroundings are monitored by a live proctor, who can trouble shoot potential testing infractions as they occur” (Dimeo).
There is much growing potential in the assessment environment for safeguarding the integrity of online examination. However, these new technologies also bring in complicated problems of their own. For them to be viable there will be surveillance in the form of webcams or another video recording medium. This can conflict with a student’s privacy as well as cause unnecessary anxiety for the student when taking the exam. We are approaching a new stage of education that must have not only integrity in mind, but also the student’s perspective as well.