Tips to Curb Online Cheating

As the popularity of distance learning grows, there is a perception that cheating is more difficult to monitor than ever before. In the 2008 study, Cheating in the Digital Age: Do Students Cheat More in Online Courses?, students admitted they were nearly four-times more likely to cheat in online courses than live classes. While academic dishonesty may seem difficult to detect in a virtual classroom where instructors may never meet students face-to-face, there are methods instructors can use to try to keep students honest.

How to Minimize Cheating in your Online Science Course

Hands-On Labs’ founder Linda Jeschofnig wrote How to Minimize Cheating in Your Online Lab Science Courses. Several of the paper’s key tips include:

  • Define academic integrity and identify what constitutes cheating so students know the academic expectations from the beginning.
  • Give unique assignments each semester to prevent plagiarism of past students’ work.
  • Randomize quiz and exam questions so each student answers in a different order. This makes it difficult to recognize questions from another’s test.
  • Time assessment exams so students use their own knowledge to answer questions without assistance from a friend or textbook.
  • Make assessments learning opportunities and encourage students to correct their thinking with weekly reinforcing quizzes of randomized objective questions. Allow students to retake each quiz as often as they wish, but only the final attempt’s grade is recorded. This gives students a chance to see their weak areas, research and study missed concepts, and reinforce their knowledge. These “learning quizzes” remove the fear of test-taking, build knowledge and confidence, plus minimize the need to cheat.
  • Require discussion board participation as a major grade component to encourage thoughtful input and collaboration from each student.
  • Do not to allow students to share LabPaqs unless absolutely necessary as the lab learning experience is then more passive and greatly diminished when students don’t actively conduct every step of each experiment themselves.
  • Require inclusion of a few photos of the students in their lab set-up for each lab report to prove that students conducted the experiment themselves.

Jennifer Sieszputowski, anatomy and physiology instructor at Kirtland Community College in Rosscommon, Michigan, uses LabPaqs in her courses and says she has noticed more online cheating in her distance learning classrooms in recent years. Incidents range from sharing answers with other students to plagiarizing online sources. Her tactics to discourage cheating continuously change as the Internet evolves.

At the beginning of every semester, Sieszputowski establishes open dialogue with her classroom by explaining academic expectations, including what academic integrity, cheating, and plagiarism entail, so students are fully aware of unacceptable actions.

“Some of my students have copy and pasted straight from the Internet because they didn’t know it was wrong,” Sieszputowski said. “The more communication you have with students, the less likely they’ll cheat.”

Sieszputowski also requires students to write weekly reflection journals about the courses, which provide her with a way to monitor students’ progress. If she notices one is struggling with a concept, she’ll talk to the student and help them understand. That way, Sieszputowski says, the student feels more confident and will be less likely to cheat.

Utilizing a range of tactics helps Sieszputowski curb cheating. She asks more critical thinking than multiple choice questions, changes course content every semester, and requires photos of the students performing their labs to be submitted with lab reports.

The Internet can incite a temptation to cheat, but teachers can proactively try to prevent it by establishing open communication, encouraging independent thinking and reinforcing students’ knowledge. View more tips from Hands-On Labs’ founder Linda Jeschofnig to the right of this article.

We want to hear your story!

What are some of the most creative cheating stories you have and what was your solution? Leave your story in the reply box below for others to learn from your experience.

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