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Strategies to Deter Online Cheating on Exams


Under normal circumstances, if a faculty member told me they were concerned about cheating during an online exam, the first thing I would do is mention two tools available to us: Respondus Lockdown Browser and Respondus Monitor.

But these are not normal circumstances.

Since we did not start the semester online, you probably didn’t mention anything in the technology requirements section of your syllabus about using either Respondus Lockdown Browser or Respondus Monitor. Since both of those tools require students to use specific hardware, it’s hardly fair to introduce them in your classes now.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up all hope of deterring cheating in your courses. Here are a few strategies that can help you stay on top of it.

Set Limits on Time, Attempts, and Availability

Here's a screenshot of several settings for your test that can help deter cheating. Access th... Here's a screenshot of several settings for your test that can help deter cheating. Access these settings on the Test Options page.A great place to start your anti-cheating efforts is with the test settings in Blackboard. Once you know how many questions you plan to ask, you can determine how long it would reasonably take students to complete the test. In the classroom, you might make sure your students have plenty of time to finish the test, but online, a time limit can prevent students from having time to search for answers on the web.

You can also limit the attempts for a test or quiz. Whereas a self-test or practice test may give students unlimited attempts, for the real exam you may only want to allow them to take it once.

Another way to deter cheating is to limit the availability of your test or quiz. By keeping the window small (maybe only a few hours) you limit students’ abilities to organize any cheating efforts.

Randomize the Questions

You also have the ability in the Blackboard test options to randomize the order of the questions. This would prevent students from being able to effectively take the test together at the same time.

Use Pools and Question Sets

Given time constraints, these options may not be feasible for you, but they are definitely great ideas to prevent cheating.

You have the option in Blackboard to import pools of test questions, and then set up tests to pull from those pools. For example, you may have 75 questions in a pool but only 25 of those questions will appear on the test, and not all students will receive the same questions.

To keep your test fair and to ensure that students are receiving an equal number of questions for each learning objective, I recommend using multiple pools and question sets for each test. For example, maybe Pool A only has questions that cover Learning Objective 3. If you use a question set, you can tell Blackboard that you want 5 questions from a 15-question pool to ensure that Learning Objective 3 is properly assessed.

When you are creating a test in Blackboard, you have the option, following the screenshot shown h... When you are creating a test in Blackboard, you have the option, following the screenshot shown here, to create a question set.

Write Questions That Aren’t Google-able

Again, this suggestion may not be feasible for you if you have time constraints, but this may be the best thing you can do right now to deter cheating.

Hopefully most of your students are self-quarantining, so cheating from each other may not be as easy as in other situations. I would guess your biggest challenge is Google. Depending on your test questions, students may be able to Google the answers.

If you’ve limited the time to answer questions, that will help cut down on Internet searches, but it also helps a lot if you vary some of the question types. For example, if students are completing a matching exercise or filling in blanks on a data table, they are less likely to be able to Google for those answers.

Include an Academic Integrity Statement

Adding an academic integrity statement before an exam is a great way to A) make students aware of the seriousness and potential consequences of cheating, and B) hopefully guilt them into completing honest work.

Here’s a statement adapted from Dr. Loree Branham in the Agriculture Department (and available for course copy in the CSE Teaching Remotely template course):

When you “Mark Reviewed” on the statement below, you indicate that you have read and agree to uphold the academic integrity standards outlined in the Angelo State University Student Handbook as it pertains to cheating, and you promise you will not cheat on this assessment.

As defined in the student handbook, cheating includes but is not limited to:

  • Copying from another student’s academic work, test, quiz, or other assignment.
  • Receiving assistance from and/or seeking aid from another student or individual to complete academic work, test, quiz, or other assignment without authority.
  • The use or possession of materials or devices during academic work, test, quiz or other assignment which are not authorized by the person administering the academic work, test, quiz, or other assignment.

I like the idea of combining the statement with the “Mark Review” feature in Blackboard as well as adaptive release. If you use both features, you can set it up so that students have to mark reviewed on the statement before their exam or quiz will become available.

Don’t Show Students the Correct Answers

Again in the test options in Blackboard, you can select if/when students can see the correct answers for the test or quiz. To help prevent cheating, you can set it to only display the correct answers after the availability window has ended or after the due date for the test or quiz.

Here's a screenshot of the section of the Test Options page that allows you to control when a... Here's a screenshot of the section of the Test Options page that allows you to control when and how students see exam answers once they have completed a test.

That concludes my list of strategies to deter online cheating, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other options as well. If you are doing something else I haven’t listed, please let me know and I can do a follow-up post with some of your ideas.

And if you need help with anything I talked about, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to get you set up.


Jayna Phinney
Jayna Phinney

Jayna Phinney is the Instructional Technology Specialist for the ASU College of Science and Engineering. Contact her at jayna.phinney@angelo.edu or 325-486-6264.

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