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5 ways to prevent cheating in online assessment

With the majority of Fall 2020’s academic term being conducted online, much discussion is taking place around academic integrity and the best ways to prevent students from cheating when assessing remotely.

As an instructor, it is important to recognize that cheating will never be absolutely preventable. It is a well-documented fact that as we evolve assessment methods, students and third parties continue to evolve to circumvent them. Video supervision is not a complete solution. The reward of high grades is simply too prized for some students in the current academic system. Ultimately, being familiar with your institution’s academic integrity policy, making sure your students are familiar with it, and using tools like Crowdmark’s Submission log to stay vigilant will be the most enduring methods of cheating prevention.

The necessary evolution in content delivery and assessment has provided educators with an incredible opportunity to reflect on why and how we assess student learning. Traditional summative assessment formats that rely on reproduction or memorizing may invite unwanted collaboration or students searching outside sources for answers. While some experts argue for doing away with grades altogether, the best instructors are exploring different ways to measure what a student has learned, provide rich feedback, and formatively assess using tools such as Crowdmark’s comment libraries. By further engaging students in their own learning, we are effectively minimizing their ability—and desire—to cheat.

Here are five examples of ways to assess student learning that Crowdmark instructors have used to discourage students from cheating:

1. Assessments using higher order thinking

Bloom’s Taxonomy defines higher order thinking as analysis, evaluation and synthesis of learned material. Students who are required to go beyond remembering or reproducing material are less likely to be able to pull the answers from outside sources.

2. Assessments drawing on students’ personal experiences

In addition to requiring higher order thinking in assessment, asking a student to apply a calculation or theorem to their own experience will decrease the likelihood of being able to collaborate or pull a third party response.

3. Increasing the frequency and varying weights of assessments

If a test or exam is worth a significant portion of a student’s grade, the desire to force a positive outcome may be higher. With more frequent assessments of smaller weights, there is less pressure on the student to get a high score and therefore less incentive to cheat.

4. Assessments that encourage collaboration

Assessment of collaborative work can result from interactions between the student and instructor, between students, or with third party sources. Encouraging students to create original content that’s derived from collaboration decreases the need to lock down individual knowledge, and the likelihood of students pulling answers from outside sources.

5. Varying assessment content and question format

While creating multiple versions of assessments places added demand on instructors, especially in what’s already an overwhelming time, these tried and tested methods will keep students on their toes and focused on their own learning. Variation of content between versions of an exam, or variation of types of questions that are asked in different versions, will prevent students from knowing answers ahead of time or answers being posted to a third party.

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