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Dealing With Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty has been a persistent concern for educators since the formalization of academic endeavors. Nearly every educational institution has purposefully implemented measures to reduce the likelihood of cheating. From setting an institutional agenda of zero tolerance in academic dishonesty to employing room monitors who proctor examinations in testing centers, educational institutions have sought out various and inventive approaches to curb the likelihood of cheating.

With the advent of online education, a new set of challenges and opportunities seem to have emerged. Taking exams online powered much of the assessment strategies in online courses, but many feared that they also made it possible for cheaters to find new ways to beat the system. Technology, however, has not been far behind in providing fairly sophisticated methods for remote oversight of examinations.

course-design-services_315823085Automated and remote proctoring services can now provide much more intent visibility of a test-taker than a human proctor ever could. Whereas a room monitor might proctor an exam for 15 or 20 students at a time, remote proctoring software can focus a camera, a microphone, and a keyboard analysis algorithm on a single student, throughout the duration of an exam, and can maintain such watch for virtually thousands.

The advent of such technologies provide more visibility into student information than can be gleaned in a physical classroom setting. For this reason, many instructors teaching face-to-face courses are incorporating the use of these technologies, which can ultimately augment, supplement, or replace the tasks incumbent in their campus-based, didactic functions. Using a remote proctoring service such as Respondus Monitor with any type of course modality is a strong deterrent of cheating, because it reminds the students that someone is watching.

Aside from tech tools designed to dissuade cheating, there are other measures to consider when reducing the likelihood of academic dishonesty. For instance, timing is a powerful tool. Timing the length of exams and gauging the amount of time allocated to each test question continues to be one of the most effective and instrumental tactics used to weed out cheaters. Even if a student looked up the answers to a test by using Google Search, or their textbook, or class notes, having an appropriately-timed test timer would make it impossible for them to cheat their way successfully through the entire examination.

Interestingly, recent studies indicate that factors such as dim lighting, feeling physically tired, or experiencing mental fatigue, can induce the right conditions for cheating. As our fatigue increases, our ability to exercise self-control decreases. The same research hints at the idea that our commitment to a moral compass is diminished toward the end of the day, when our energy resources are depleted.

These findings make a strong case for altering one of the most common practices in test completion and assignment submission online: The default deadline for any sort of Blackboard activity is typically set to 11:59 p.m. Most instructors do not modify this default setting, even though the opportunity to change it is available. However, recent findings mentioned above may suggest perhaps it is time to modify the standard 11:59 p.m. deadline in online courses and exams.

For more information about designing such elements in your online course, contact your instructional designer today!