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How to Detect Cheating On Online Exams

It’s can be reeeeeally difficult to stop test takers from cheating. 

It takes a combination of technology, strategy, and understanding (we cover all of them in this article) to prevent it from happening.

Using remote proctoring technology to prevent cheating on online exams

There are tons of features and factors to consider when it comes to remote proctoring.

What kind of proctoring tools do you need? How do they work? Which should you prioritize?

We’ll help you sort out what you need (hint: it’s much more than a browser lockdown).

Key tools within remote proctoring software

Recording test takers

One of the first questions to consider is how you’ll monitor test takers’ behavior during exams, such as:

  • Video monitoring so you can see if they’re trying to look at their notes and use other resources during the test.
  • Smart Voice detection (not sound detection) so you can tell if they’re talking to someone else in the room or asking Siri for help, but not have to review flags for unimportant noises like coughing or a doorbell ringing.
  • Screen monitoring so you can see if they try to access other websites or attempt to copy and paste questions into a document).

Cell phone detection

Cell phones are a huge threat to exam integrity. They’re discreet and almost everyone has one.

Luckily, Honorlock can detect cell phones and other devices, like tablets and smart watches, that are used to look up information during an online exam.

Test content protection

Leaked test content is as annoying as it is common.

Community forums like Reddit and sites like Quizlet and Chegg that pretend they’re used for “homework help” make it all too easy.

But, you can use Honorlock’s proprietary Search and destroy technology to automatically scan the web for your leaked test content and send takedown requests with one click.

Easy peasy.

Identity Authentication

You want to make sure that the person taking the exam is who they say they are. 

Online proctoring systems that capture a photo of both the test taker and their ID can help you make sure that test taers are only getting credit for the work they do themselves.

AI protection

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT can write about anything and answer just about any question.

Using AI plagiarism detection tools won’t work either. We’ve tried.

Honorlock has a bunch of tools that can help by blocking AI extensions, preventing copying and pasting, recording their desktops, and restricting access to specific sites and applications.

See more Honorlock remote proctoring tools & features

Test strategies to prevent cheating

These are some of our instructors’ favorite tips and tricks to help you protect test content and make sure assessments are actually tracking learning (and not just cheating skills). 

Test Banks – Step one to prevent test takers from successfully copying and sharing exam content is to make sure each exam is a little different. By creating a bank of test questions (especially similar questions with slightly different answers), you can throw a wrench in plans to cheat and keep everyone honest.

One Question at a Time – Nothing invites a test taker to share test content quite like having the whole exam displayed all at once. By only displaying one question at a time, you make sure they can’t grab a screenshot of the entire exam in one fell swoop. Cheating becomes more difficult (and more annoying).

Time Limits – Ultimately, even when a test taker is motivated to cheat, most of them are focused first on their own success and secondarily on sharing exam content. This is where time limits come in handy—by putting a tight rein on time, you don’t give them the leeway to grab and share information, and you help them prioritize their own grades over dishonesty.

Restricting Information Access – To successfully provide online assessments, you need a proctoring system that allows you to keep test takers from searching the web or opening other applications while still providing access to the content they need to complete the test.

Feedback – If you provide test takers with immediate feedback on multiple-choice questions, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t reprint the test questions and answers. Instead, create feedback that responds to the general ideas and lets learners know where they can learn more about missed concepts without sharing specific details. This makes it just a bit harder to remember, grab, and share content with others.

Why does cheating happen during exams?

Another component to prevent cheating: understanding why they try to in the first place.

What motivates them, and how can you address those issues to help keep them honest while promoting academic integrity?

It Comes Down to Opportunity

In online courses, the need and rationalization for cheating are pretty similar to what a learner might feel in a face-to-face class. 

But the most significant difference in online contexts—and the one that’s most difficult to mitigate—is opportunity

The good news? The right policies and technology go a long way toward protecting test integrity. 

The need for good grades

The impetus for academic dishonesty is most often the need to pass a class, maintain a GPA, or complete a degree. This pressure is amplified when final grades are comprised of the results of just a few high-stakes exams.

When online courses follow this format, it becomes even easier to cave into the pressure.

So, what can you do? For starters, create a framework that uses more low-stakes exams, quizzes, and discussion boards throughout the semester to take away some of the weight. This gives them a chance to better target their studying, and they end up feeling like their efforts pay off.

Rationalizing the guilt away

Of course, to be able to cheat, test takers also need a rationale. In online classes, this often comes down to a sense that they’re unlikely to be caught. Or, perhaps, they think that everyone else is doing it. When it seems easy and worth trying, they do. 

To help test taker think more carefully about decisions to cheat, you can make sure they’re aware of your policies. Make sure they know the rules as well as what the consequences will be. When the threat of discipline is clearly understood, they’ll think twice before they opt to cheat.

The pitfalls of online exams

Why are online courses more vulnerable? For starters, you can’t supervise test takers directly. It can be far more challenging to monitor their behavior and restrict what resources they can access. For another, because testing can be staggered and doesn’t all take place at a specific time, it’s easier for them to grab and share test information with classmates. But what can you do about it?

Want to see Honorlock in action? Schedule a demo.

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