Faculty use technology, keen eyes to prevent online cheating

According to a 2009 Study in the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 32.7 percent of the students surveyed admitted to cheating in online classes, usually on a test or a quiz. Less than three percent were caught. So how do instructors catch online cheaters?

The best way is to know their students. If a student struggles with essays all semester long, then her online paper is a hit, that’s a give-away. Sometimes, students will take information from an online source or even a friend, and copy it directly onto an online assignment. Spanish instructor Carole Seror said past students have used Spanish translation websites and the results were often funny. Either the site completely mistranslated the assignment, or the vocabulary was too advanced for the student to have written themselves.

According to Allan Heaps, the interim director of academic technologies, many instructors just use the online testing center. The OTC runs a software called Securexam from Software Secure to lock down the system so only the test appears on the screen. No cheating allowed. Instructors who teach online are given extra training through Boise State’s eQIP program that Heaps said gives faculty methods that sidestep the opportunities for cheating. For example, they can use writing assignments that require multiple drafts instead of one final product. That would prevent a student from purchasing a term paper or taking responses directly offline. Blackboard also contains software that allows teachers to check for plagiarism.

History instructor Blaine Davies said students who cheat fail to learn and waste time and money. “More importantly, for the rest of their lives, they will know they cheated. I wonder how difficult it will be someday to look your own children in the eye and try to teach them good values knowing that you failed to adhere to those values yourself.”

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