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Creating conditions to avoid cheating

Image showing a person pointing at a blacboard with e=mc2

At the School of Economics, Per Jochumzen teaches courses on mathematics and microeconomics. He believes that there are major challenges around how to handle cheating in areas where students’ knowledge cannot be tested through, for example, essays.

Peter writes: In my opinion, the biggest challenge with home exams is to prevent cheating. This especially applies to situations where you want to evaluate individuals students’ knowledge by not allowing collaboration. Arranging home exams on courses where the exam can be forumlated as an essay is not such a big challenge. It is easier to find out if the students have collaborated or used text from the internet. The problems are greater in courses where it is not possible to test the students’ knowledge through an essay, for example in a course in mathematics or microeconomics. For questions where the students’ answers are objectively right or wrong, it is much more difficult to determine if the students have cheated by collaborating.

Instead of supervising the students when they write the exams, a solution that Peter thinks places great demands on both students and the department technical capabilities and in terms of supervision and which he sees as an invasion of privacy, Peter has developed three alternative ways to try to minimize cheating.

Variations of the question

For some exam questions you can relatively easily create several versions of the question with the exact same degree of difficulty. The question “Evaluate the derivative of f (x) = x2 at the point x = 2” can be varied by replacing the number 2 with another number. Canvas can do this automatically with relative ease. As an examiner you write a number of versions of the question and let Canvas randomly assign one of the questions to the students.

One question at a time – with pauses in between

When I write the exam, I also sort out how much time is required for each assignment. I then create an assignment per question in Canvas. I then create an assignment for each question in Canvas. The first assignment becomes available when the exam begins. I allow for just enough time so that there is no time for them to discuss the answers with anyone else without risk of giving a worse answer. Students submit their answers before the deadline expires. They then get a break before the assignment for question 2 opens. The process repeats in the same way until the last assignment is closed.

Secondary check-up – a follow-up day

For each exam, I schedule a day for a follow-up. During a follow-up, I organize a number of Zoom meetings with a selection of students who have completed the exam. In this Zoom meeting, the student must explain their answers. It is then quite easy to see if the students have cheated on their answers. During the exam, they must give times when they are available for the follow-up.