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Faculty concerned with cheating in online classes

On October 26, 2011

Students often cheat in creative ways, but for online courses, the cheating can be drastic.

Many students believe cheating in online courses is easier to do compared to traditional courses due to a low amount of interaction with faculty members.

According to Mira Hariri, a junior majoring in pharmacy, online courses shouldn't count as a replacement to a traditional course because anyone could take the online course in place of the student.

"I once knew a mother who had her daughter do all of her exams and all her work for an online chemistry course," she said. "She got caught because her daughter signed her own name for an assignment."

Professors have also shown concern for this and requested information from Benjamin Pryor, vice provost of Learning Ventures and dean of the College of Innovative Learning, who presented findings and ways Learning Ventures is approaching the issue of academic dishonesty in online courses.

"People will tell you that cheating is rampant in online courses," Pryor said. "Some faculty and advisors have told me that they don't know what to do because students have approached them and said they have taken the online courses because they know they can cheat in it."

Pryor said nationwide data is back and forth, some studies show cheating in the same course is lower online compared to a traditional course in a classroom, and other studies show cheating is higher in online courses than in traditional ones.

According to Rowa Anton, a junior majoring in pharmacy, less cheating occurs in traditional courses because there are people proctoring the exams.

"They watch us like owls, they are seriously behind us, it's crazy," Anton said.

To keep students more honest, Learning Ventures wants to implement software that would compare students' submitted written work with other works in a database.

Pryor said it is best for students to take more important exams on campus where they can be monitored.

One option Pryor mentioned in proctoring students while they take online exams is to have students install a camera that watches them while they take an exam at home. The student would pay $25 per exam fee to be watched.

"They have a bank of computers to see who's cheating… the student knows it's possible she's being watched while she takes an exam ,whether or not she's actually being watched," Pryor said. "They tell you to show them around the room. Apparently it works."

Another way students cheat in online courses is by working together on an exam online.

"If [a professor] is suspicious because of quality of answers, then [they] can call us and we can see if they have the same IP address," he said.

Another cheating solution is Respondus Lockdown, which would prevent printing and web-surfing during a test session. One faculty member pointed out students could have another laptop available with them during the test.

Pryor said the most common way students cheat in online courses is by telling professors their exam froze.

Sometimes this problem is on BlackBoard's side and Learning Ventures is able to look through the system to see if a freeze has occurred. Computers freezing, however, often happen on the student's side.

According to Pryor, students should provide professors with proof that the exam froze with a screen shot for example.

"I do not like it when a student gives me a compelling case that their computer froze. I know it happens. I hate it when students fail courses when their computer froze and they can't prove it," he said.

One suggestion Pryor made is for students to have an alternative assignment to prove they understand the material.

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