Prevent Cheating

If you are an instructor experiencing a student issue involving academic dishonesty, review the Foothill College Academic Honor Code, then call the Student Affairs & Activities office at (650) 949-7241 to inform us of the issue immediately and verify the facts of the offense, and to clarify any question about administrative discipline and due process.

Strategies to Minimize Cheating Online

How can you be sure a student is actually doing his/her own work? What is the most secure way to handle online examinations? Many of the same problems regarding the authenticity of a student's work and plagiarism exist in the traditional classroom as well.

Test Design

Give many short exams embedded in many class exercises
  • Frequent, short tests help students keep up and stay on track.
  • Difficult and unlikely to have help ALL the time
  • Make exercises difficult enough to depend on having done the preceding course work.
  • Pose higher order, mastery questions requiring deeper knowledge and application of material (i.e., case studies vs. memorization questions).
  • Have students relate subject matter their personal/professional/life experiences, reducing the benefits of plagiarism or someone else’s answers.
  • Who would work so hard for someone else and not get credit?
  • Construct a pool of questions and have the testing program randomly select for each quiz. Each student will get a different set of questions, however many times you reset a quiz.
  • Pools guarantee a new version of the quiz should it have to be reset.
  • Writing multiple questions can be tedious but just think - once you have created the pool, you can draw from it repeatedly as you slowly add to it each semester.
  • When the subject matter allows, make assessments "open book".
  • Relieves everyone's stress around potential technical problems like dropped connections, server glitches, etc.
  • Renders most cheating pointless.
  • Allows questions that require critical thinking, analysis, evaluation, or synthesis.

Time Issues

  • Limit the times when the online test is available.
  • Set a duration of time to complete the test.
  • Estimate how long responses should take to answer if someone knows the material well.
  • Factor in how much time might allow students to cheat (look up answers).
  • Set the duration of the test to balance these two factors.
  • If questions require higher order thinking than fact recall, timing is not a serious concern.

Technical Problems

  • Be prepared to reset a test should students lose connectivity or be kicked off the server.
  • Make quizzes shorter.
  • Provide more of them.
  • Give midterms, finals or other longer tests in sections or parts.
  • Limit questions in a timed test, or section of a test, to 25 items or fewer.

Alternative Assessment Methods

  • Use Authentic Assessment (students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills).
  • Use online quizzes as self-assessment only.
  • Provide immediate answers and feedback to help with lower order learning tasks.
  • Use the baseline knowledge created this way to prepare students for more elaborate assessments.
  • Use online quizzes as pre-testing at the start of a course.
  • Evaluate performance in a variety of educationally sound ways.
    • Essays
    • Group or individual projects
    • Theses
    • Discussion
    • Original research
    • Portfolios
    • Debate
    • Simulations
    • Contribution to collective information pools like Wikis
    • Creation of products like learning materials, realia, manipulative, inventions, chronicles, books

Checking Up on Performance

  • Require outlines and drafts of all papers and essays to see the work in progress.
  • Do a quick check for plagiarism on the Internet.
    • Insert a unique phrase from a paper into a search engine (i.e.
    • If the paper exists on the Internet, the search engine will likely find it.
  • Suspect plagiarism, but can't find evidence on the net?
    • Use chat feature to debrief a paper you suspect with the student.
    • The true author of work will discuss it fluently.
    • A log-in/password system might help but a determined cheater can give the information to someone else to log on
Last Updated July 06, 2017
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