Sometimes information is so good, it needs to be shared multiple times. This article, originally written and posted by Bob Harrison in May of 2016, has been updated and remixed with some new information. Enjoy!
This year, scores of teachers in Dearborn have begun to move their assessments online, mainly to Moodle (iLearn). This has been to the benefit of students, as they experience tests in formats that resemble that of the high-stakes standardized tests they’ll encounter. It can also provide them with more timely feedback and opportunities for alternative methods of testing. It can also help teachers with grading turn-around times and copy numbers.
However, one of the concerns voiced by a few teachers this year has centered on the perennial phenomenon of cheating on tests. As a result of my conversations with teachers and my own personal experience as a classroom teacher, I’d like to offer up a few points, tips, and personal commentary.
1. It is not easier to cheat on an online test than a paper test.
While a student sitting at a desk with the internet at his fingertips may seem like he has an open channel to finding answers on the test, he is actually at quite a disadvantage over the student who, say, can just glance over at his neighbor’s paper while the teacher is answering another student’s question. Consider this: in order for a student to find an answer to a test question online, he has to click the mouse several times, to open a new tab, and then copy, paste, or type the question into the Google Search window. That’s not to mention the fact that if he really wants to cover up his cheating, he should also be diligent enough to go through and delete his history because every move he makes online leaves a footprint. While cheating on an online test may be different, it is certainly not easier. Screenshots are a real threat too, but again, this requires several clicks and at least a couple emails or messages–all of which can be traced, and more importantly, all of which require movements that would seem out of the ordinary to a teacher who is closely monitoring the actions of students during the test. This brings me to my next point:
2. Cheating is more of a classroom management issue than a technology issue.
While you can set up a test to be automatically graded for you, it will not proctor itself for you. And anyone who has ever taken or proctored one of the high-stakes exams knows that the adult’s attention needs to constantly be upon the actions of the students. Careful monitoring of student behavior–and the content of their screens–can prevent students who are tempted to cheat from even thinking about cheating, let alone detect it when it occurs. But there are also things a teacher can do to help him/herself monitor effectively:
a. Make sure students are all facing the same direction and walk around the room.
This can help teachers quickly get a glimpse of each student’s screen and actions, and quickly detect when things are out of the ordinary.
b. Look for questionable behaviors.
If your test is multiple-choice and you notice that a student’s keyboard is clicking, there just might be a problem. That’s on top of some other obvious indicators, like the student who is constantly looking back to see where you are. You would do well to watch her closely. And if you notice that a student has more than one tab open on the browser, stop by and take a look–and don’t forget to check the browser history if you’re really suspicious.
c. A stern warning goes a long way.
Let students know that certain things are not appropriate during the testing period. Go ahead and list them verbally, and be explicit about prohibited behaviors in your instructions for the test. My final warning before a test used to go something like this: “If it looks or sounds like you’re cheating (whether you are or aren’t), you’ll receive a zero for the test. And you also forfeit any chance for a retake!”
3. Cheaters cheat, and those with integrity don’t.
Don’t buy the myth that cheating is just something kids do. It’s not. The fact of the matter is that most kids actually have moral values, know right from wrong, have a conscience, and will go to great lengths to guard their integrity. That usually leaves a select few who will give in to temptation and put their character in jeopardy. But there’s no need to be overly suspicious. Every kid deserves a fair assessment of his character. That is, until he compromises his integrity. And if there’s one thing dishonesty rightly earns, it’s a little closer scrutiny.
4. If you searched online to find the questions, students can find the same questions online for themselves.
It’s no secret that there are many sites out there featuring answers to popular and frequently-asked questions. This includes publishers’ test banks. If you really want to squash cheating, know your content well and write your own questions.
5. Fight Google with Google (or Google-proof your questions).
Try Googling some of the questions you ask on your tests. Chances are, you’ll find something close, if not verbatim. So what do you do? My suggestion is to begin welcoming Google into your testing room. Am I kidding?! Nope. One of the things Google can’t do is higher-order thinking. If you can Google your questions and find the answers, your questions are probably not fostering higher-order thinking in the first place. If you’re up for the challenge, Google-Proofing your questions will lead to richer thinking for your students, whilst the threat of cheating quickly evaporates. Take a look at one teacher’s suggestions here for Google-Proof Questioning.
6. Secure your tests with built-in safeguards in iLearn.
iLearn makes it easy to help prevent cheating with some of its built-in features. Let’s take a look at three features that will help with cheating:
- Lockdown browser: When logging in with the secure lockdown browser, students are restricted to the iLearn program. They cannot open another tab or navigate, in any way, outside of the iLearn browser. This will bar them from googling things they shouldn’t be. It will also bar them from opening embedded YouTube videos or other links the teacher wants them to see, so use with caution.
- Password protection: Teachers can set a password for the test, and then give the password at the time of the test. This way, students will need the password in order to access the test.
- Restrict user to DPS WiFi: By restricting the quiz to the DPS WiFi, users are forced to be on the Dearborn Public Schools WiFi in order to access the quiz. That means that if a student is taking his test on his phone, he would have to be on the district WiFi to be able to access it.
For more information on using iLearn for assessment, contact the Tech Coach today!