Online degrees and distance learning are increasing in popularity. Easier accessibility for a growing range of subjects, as well as recent government calls for a push in e-learning, highlight the fact that more and more students will be studying from home in the future and partaking in this more economical and ecological method of higher education. But does being away from the watchful eye of tutors and teachers mean that there is an increased risk of cheating among students? And what are the measures to stop it?
In their article, Probing for Plagiarism in the Virtual Classroom, Lindsey Hamlin and William Ryan discuss the notion of plagiarism, passing off another persons work as one’s own, in the context of online education. They describe how e-learning doesn’t seem to make plagiarism any more tempting or easier for students to carry out in comparison to traditional learning, and suggest that this is an age old problem of education generally that can be stopped by any respective institution implementing the correct measures. They also offer details of anti-plagiarism software specifically for online education institutions.
Neil Rowe continued this discussion in his article, Cheating in Online Student Assessment, by offering his argument that other forms of online cheating need to be monitored aside from plagiarism. The notion of students being able to receive answers before completing online exams is Rowe’s first worry. With students not being tested simultaneously, Rowe identifies that a method to prevent this would be for institutions to write enough random questions to ensure a suitable ratio between number of questions and number of students, in order to minimize the chances that two students will receive the same questions.
Rowe also highlights the chances that students, if unhappy with their performance during an online test, may be able to start again (after conference with external sources) by claiming that they are experiencing connection problems and have lost their answers. Similarly, he also expresses his biggest worry as relating to whom exactly is answering the questions during an online test and the possibility that bright students may complete the tests of less capable students, or at least be called upon for help.
Rowe cites G. J. Cizek for countermeasures against online education cheating. Cizek suggests promoting and teaching the value of honesty above simply employing measures to stop cheating when it happens. One such idea: ‘Students could be asked to read and sign a policy statement like an honor code or integrity policy at the beginning of the course’, seems an effective starting point, alongside minimizing the temptation for students to cheat by giving them overly easy or overly difficult exams.